Meeting Jesus in Taos

 

It's Easter Sunday at Ranchos de Taos.

San Francis de Asis Church is packed

With the local faithful

(And a few gringo tourists), 

And we in the overflow flow upstream

Into the balcony.

 

While the priest talks of sin and guilt and venality -- 

And how man's weaknesses make it difficult to meet Jesus -- 

I try to get the little girl in the row in front of me to smile.

 

A two-year-old, she's shy and cautious.

Her father, wearing clean jeans, a plaid, green workshirt,   

     and a carpenter's hat attached to his belt,

Holds her at times,

But mostly she's carried by her short, broad-beamed mother.

 

The girl is turned towards me and I make faces, play

Silly tricks with my glasses,

And bat my eyes crazily.

But she just stares at the lunatic

And clings tightly to her mother's neck.

Finally, more than halfway through the mass,

She starts fast-blinking her large, black eyes at me.

We've reached a new plateau.

 

Now she's fidgeting again

And her dad picks her up.

They brush lips and playfully rub their heads together.

Both smile and gurgle.

Then the girl smiles at me.

 

It's almost Holy Communion time.

All join hands to create the chain of faith

And wish each other "Peace Be With You."

On my left, I take the hand of an old man,

But there is no one but the wall in my row to take my right hand,

So I reach out to the little girl.

I present my finger

And she gazes into my eyes,

Smiles a sad, joyous grin

And takes my offering 

Into her warm, sweaty hand.

 

We stare at each other,

Amazed at the connection

(And how easy it is),

Then her grip grows week

And she withdraws

Into her perfect self.

 

                                                                                                    (Taos, N.M.: April 1996)

 

                                                                                                 From Pit/Stops (Transformation Press, 1999)