Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bearing Witness

In the meeting house this morning, silence. No machines thrumming, no rumble of moving earth. Six others sit in equal quiet. A blue jay caws from someplace distant. I look down to my clasped hands. The query runs through me: Where there are hatred, division, and strife, how are we instruments of reconciliation and love?

Pews creak. Blue pulses below my wrist, skin thin as hope. The jay cackles again, the same or another I cannot tell, but Franklin rises and slides the door bolt. No one speaks; it is understood our other Friends fled South through the excavated tunnels. Decades ago, the Sin Papeles built the tunnels and immigrated North. When they crossed the border, broken and naked, we sheltered and fed them in our safe houses until they ran down our schools, shot the police, and bankrupted our hospital. Their children hold the town captive.

Still, we hold Sin Papeles to the light.

To the light we hold our Friends traveling South. I hold my daughter, her husband and infant to the light. My cousin Lorraine, the kindergarteners I taught. I hold them all to the light.

A shadow in the window. A flutter of blue feathers. Footsteps rustle brittle leaves. Far off, the staccato of gunfire. I smell the smoke before I see it curl past the window. Muriel reaches for me and we grip hands.

We are instruments of peace, we whisper. We are instruments of love.

I hold us to the light.


A rather dystopian ditty inspired by the 52-250 Flash a Year Challenge theme: border town. I recently went to a Quaker service; it seems that hour of reflection resonated longer and deeper than I thought -- this is the second story spun from that visit.

A foot of snow in Maryland. The ground glitters in treacherous beauty. Peace, Linda


    The imagery of the solemnity of religion, the blue feathers of the noisy jay, the innate fear. This is like a detailed oil painting, a masterpiece.

  2. Beautifully written piece. Once again I am transported by your work, sitting there in the pew with them.

  3. You show well that sometimes our faith is all we have left...

  4. This is just wonderful. The feeling of it and everything sucked me right in.


  5. This is the best post on this topic i have ever read.I am really very impressed with the blogging

  6. Gorgeous imagery throughout. I keep coming back to "Blue pulses below my wrist, skin thin as hope."

  7. What do they see when they're held to the light? Do they remain those instruments of peace?

    Of course you do, Linda. Peace...

  8. Beautiful language, as usual. This one really strikes a chord.

  9. I'm reading about the Quakers and the history of their role in early colonial America. The priority of their valuation and quest for martyrdom is brought out perfectly here.

  10. Yes.

    I mean what else can I say to this besides, yes.

  11. I guessed it was a Quaker meeting. A small congregation waiting for martyrdom or its equivalent — very well done and believable. The pastor at my church grew up in Guatemala and told similar stories of the civil war.

  12. This is beautifully written, Linda. Blue Jays are beautiful too, but they can make very harsh sounds. I often see dissonance in your writing, and that makes it compelling. "Skin thin as hope" - that's a great phrase.

  13. Such peace and horror combined in the one piece. As always, your language is gorgeous.

    But it's your ability to reach deeply to the emotion of the piece, and the reader, that is awesome.

    Excellently done, Linda.

  14. "No machines thrumming ... " except that gorgeous expressive one in your mind's eye, dear Linda ~ which *sees* the feel of peace. I was Quakering while reading this one, for the tone evoked greater reverence.

    ~ (dare I say 'Amen'?) Absolutely*Kate

  15. I must second Cathy's comparison to a fine painting. A miniature, I think. There is a sense of fragility not only in the situation and characters but in the form. It feels like you walked a thin, careful line to achieve this story, and you did it perfectly. Respect.