Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

O Almighty God, who alone makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will: grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

La Estrella del Mar, or, Mother of Exiles

Trucks rumble—the hustle and the hum
Of gears gas engine exhaust choke POTHOLE and there’s a cut on the forehead,
Red over the white frightened eyes in the dark.
She bends down over POTHOLE her baby
And she knows what’s coming next but it hasn’t happened yet,
So she cradles and coos and tries not to think
About the kennel they’ll put her son in
With the chainlink door and the concrete floor and the ugly foil blanket made for an alien.
And the dry road south is all sand sand sand POTHOLE sand,
Back down to Sinaloa, the land of the rattlesnake,
Sand in the hair the mouth the eyes, like an itching thirsting disease.

Turn your bodies against the drums, boys:
It’s the I.C.E., it’s the Committee of Public Saftey,
It’s Herod and he means it this time.

The trucks aren’t full of people.
They’re full of MS13 monsters like her,
They’re full of sluts who wouldn’t get an abortion like her,
They’re full of cost-benefit ratios like her,
They’re full of huddled masses like her,
They’re full of not our problems like her.
But her eyes are two thousand years old
And the message of the angel still shines out of them
The mystery the plea the glory the warning
That this is an ikon of the all-consuming Fire.
What will you do when that Fire falls on you?

Turn your bodies against the drums, boys:
It’s the I.C.E., it’s the Committee of Public Safety,
It’s Herod and he means it this time.

So pick up your ploughshares and your pruning hooks,
This is no time for passivity, it’s time for pacifisticuffs:
If what you want is peace then go be peace’s power,
Lift up your voice, your open hands toward that White Tower
And cover it with brown sand.
Hate burns white-hot—don’t be fooled by its easy appeal:
Love is brown like earth and wood and dried blood and Jewish skin
And the eyes of the baby that immigrant woman is holding for the last time.
Call on the mountains to fall on us, the hills to hide us,
For their earth is full of love
And perhaps thus we shall learn to love our brother.

Turn your bodies against the drums, boys:
It’s the I.C.E., it’s the Committee of Public Safety,
It’s Herod and he too will die.

✠     ✠ ✠

EDIT: Notes on the Text
Title. La Estrella del Mar. This is the Spanish form of the Latin title Stella Maris, 'Star of the Sea.' This title (derived from a fanciful etymology of the name Miriam or Mary) has been used for the Blessed Virgin Mary since at least the early Middle Ages, and has particular reference to the guiding stars used by sailors.
Mother of Exiles. This is an alternate name for the Statue of Liberty, believed to have been coined by Emma Lazarus in her famous sonnet, The New Colossus.
l.10. Sinaloa. The state of Sinaloa lies on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and is the principal center of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, considered the single most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world by US intelligence. Cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines are among their chief wares.
land of the rattlesnake. The Mexican flag and seal feature a rattlesnake being throttled by an eagle, in reference to an ancient Aztec legend. Though its bite is seldom fatal if treated promptly, the rattlesnake is the leading cause of snakebite injuries in the US, and ranges throughout the Americas.
l. 13. the Committee of Public Safety. This Orwellian title belonged to one of the institutions of the French Revolution, and oversaw the Reign of Terror in 1793-94.
l. 14. Herod. Cf. Matthew 2.1-18.
l. 16. MS13. Also known as Mara Salvatrucha, this extensive gang operates mostly in North and Central America, partly under the auspices of the Sinaloa Cartel. It is known for a multitude of crimes, including murder, human trafficking, and child prostitution. Most MS13 members are Salvadoran; the gang was originally founded to protect emigrants from El Salvador who had come to the US after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
l. 19. huddled masses. Cf. The New Colossus ll. 10ff.
ll. 21-22. But her eyes ... out of them. Cf. Luke 1.26-35.
l. 24. all-consuming Fire. Cf. Hebrews 12.28-29.
l. 25. What will you ... falls on you? Cf. Matthew 21.42-44; Acts 2.1-4, 15-21, 38.
l. 29. your ploughshares and your pruning hooks. Cf. Isaiah 2.1-5.
l. 32. White Tower. A mashing together of White House and Trump Tower.
l. 35. wood and dried blood and Jewish skin. In reference to the Crucifixion.
l. 37. Call on the ... to hide us. Cf. Revelation 6.12-17.
l. 42. he too will die. Cf. Matthew 2.19-20.


  1. Did you write this poem? I am literally crying right now.

    1. I did. And, wow. I'm -- glad? Honored, certainly.

    2. I've got a whole book of poetry, "Wells of Night," if you're interested (and in fact I still have it even if you're not).