I performed a spoken-word poem this morning at my congregation of Holland UCC and was asked by several to share it. It was inspired by Dorothe Soelle and this excellent article by my friend Ryan Kuja: Modern Mary: What a Pregnant Minority Refugee Teenager Would Sing Today.

You can listen to it here, edited with music, or to the original version performed before the congregation. I haven’t written or performed many poems before, so I appreciate feedback, and also, be kind.

Full text:

Not the white-skinned, blue-hued Madonna
of front lawns
And post cards.

This girl
as the dirt she sweeps
across the barren floor

A two room house
with broken beams
the poor.

A few, amid
Fitful sleep. Worry telling its
old tale.

A child, her.
a cloud that hovers o’er

Invisible realities
That mystify the mind
Empire reigns even here
In rural Palestine.

A northern girl – she has no name
Judeans turn aside
Roman citizens scoff
Their mother she
Built on those seven hills.

This backward town of Nazareth
Not a worthy home
For dogs.

Barely more than twelve, thirteen
enough to know
your life? It doesn’t matter.
Told by men time and again
You have no voice, no place

South side. Finds this 9th grader.
Bearing the weight of six classes
and possible deportation
In her hand-me-down knapsack.

Eyes look away
As she walks the halls
Of this school
she doesn’t even know

This girl
As the dirt swept under the rug
In the two room apartment
Where steam pipes
Heat the floor.

A few, amid
Sirens; bullets fired.
Fitful sleep. Worry telling
its old tale.

A child her,
Forgotten, beneath
A cloud that hovers o’er

Invisible amid realities
That mystify today
Empire reigns even here
in good ol’ USA.

An immigrant — she has no name
Classmates turn aside
White men scoff
Proud citizens of
That city on a hill.

Barely more than twelve, thirteen,
enough to know
your life? It doesn’t matter
Told by men time and again
You have no voice, no place

Off to market now she trods
this path in Galilee
Marked by so many women
Through time and eternity.

Selling bread helps
Put bread on the table
An irony without humor
In this town where
manna can no longer be found.

“Get a fresh loaf here”
she yells.
Drowned out by others
Selling olives and wares
Each exchange
Keeping hunger at bay.

A gruff hand grabs a loaf
And gives an elbow
For payment.
A look says
“What else are you selling

Wiping a defiant look
from glistening eyes
She turns her cheek
another direction.

Knowing all too well that silence
Might be her only protection.
“Fresh bread” she murmurs
As tears begin to fall

Wondering if this is the place
That God and the angels forgot
When Eden was
glistening and new.

Off to market
another one trods
this path in El Salvador
Marked by so many women
As time goes on as before.

Buying bread
A difficult task
These days when
Drought abounds.

“Get a fresh loaf here”
she hears.
Pushing her way to grasp
A bit of hope
That won’t last beyond

A five-year development plan
Promises a nation
Productive, Educated and Safe.
She knows better.

Her wisdom honed by many days
Under a Latin sun.
History flows in her blood.
Indigo. Coffee. Sugar Cane.

Production under a new master
Is slavery by another name.
A defiant look in her eyes,
She turns her cheek
another direction.

Wondering if this is the place
that God and the angels forgot
When Eden was
glistening and new.

Nazareth. Close to nowhere
As embers glow
and Mary’s hands
warm, worn from
Another day

Of the same
In this small town
Where visions go to die

What matters it
If I close my eyes
And dream of
Something new?

I’ve played that game
And it’s just the same
when I was younger
by just a few

Back then I thought
what life had wrought
Was not
my destiny

But now I see
that life cannot be
more than
What it is.

Leaning back
Her eyes they cloud
closed off,
her mind a shroud

But a light!
A voice!
Do not fear
For you will bear
A child here
Who will be
Son of God.

How can this be?
I am just she
This girl whom life
Passed on by?

Now blessed you
among all peers
Nothing is impossible
with God.

Alone again
She starts to bend
Her mind upon this scene
Could it be?
But doubts creep in.
The embers witnessing.

A voice is raised
in Nazareth
El Salvador

It echoes in
The halls of men
Who trample on
The poor

Where borders and bodies
Bear marks of war
Assaulted every day

Their voices join
A chorus
of displaced
forgotten chords

My soul, it magnifies
the Holy One, the Lord
Who knew me all along
Who saw
Me in the dirt
And raised me with her very arm.

Proud men we knew
now tumble from on high

Each day more
pain echoes forth:
Like banners ‘cross the sky
Me too
Me too
Me… too.

Liberation dances
on the tongues
of refugee,

Our God has filled us
with good things
The wealthy hung out to dry

My soul sees the land of freedom
Subversive as it may be.
Where children walk
And women breathe
For the Son has set them free.

Liberation of the poor
Salvation on display
According to the promises
She made
So long ago
They matter
Still today.

The anthem beckons
here and now
For you, for me,
for all.

So long as bullets light
the neighborhood skies
And profits rest
on paths of lies
Then silent we must not be.

For weak, for poor,
for queer
and more
Are suffering every day.

These girls still sing

But will we bring
Our all
To make it real?


  1. ncyjoygries says:

    Very well written and beautifully read Bryan. The subject matter is great also because personalizing the message is never a bad idea.

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