Involuntary Immigration, Feast Days, Devotions, Prayer and Poetry

For many of us, today is Halloween, all hallows eve, the Vigil of All Saints, the last day of October, Mary’s month, month of the Rosary, month of the Queen of all saints.  For many others, it’s also a day to walk another 40 miles toward the U.S. border or make a decision to turn back, in a Notre Dame t-shirt, with a rosary in hand, amidst Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, embracing “memento mori” not as an spiritual discipline of choice, but a motivation to keep going. But there’s no us and them in prayer, in the communion of Saints, in Our Lady of (insert preferred locale).

Image by J. Michael Walker

The poem below is an excerpt from a longer poem in Natalia Treviño’s recent chapbook, Virgin X. I offer this here as a meditation on the relationship between liturgy and life in the face of what could feel like overwhelming events in the U.S. today. Our Lady of ______ and all the saints, pray for us.

OUR LADY OF SAN JUAN DEL VALLE/ SAN JUAN DE LOS LAGOS, DEPENDING ON WHICH SIDE OF THE BORDER YOU BELIEVE IN

III. MIGRATING LA VIRGIN

O Lady of San Juan de los Lagos,
Your eyes do not look down at us, half-shut.

It is your dream, the whole Earth you carry above your head
where we do not fight for land,

and we do not cross one another or jagged borders
with our own travel-sized miracles: a miracle of a bottle of water;

miracle of a photograph tucked under a bra; miracle
of a sandwich shared, made three million times,

hundreds of miles away. You want us to swim in the one
ocean, el mar, maria, your populated effigy,

Great Mother Earth: as the dream, as the dreamer.
I’ve crossed the brown to Rio Grande,

three hundred times or more
with my Green Card, then my Blue Card,

while other children crawled across pale deserts
hid under helicopters, bridged the two lands

in question with their water bottles and work and bones,
Madre de Misericordia, Mother of Misery, of Mercy.

The difference between these children and me
was the color of our papers—

We have papers, my father always said, papers!
Though I’d asked once if he could tell my mom

to please dry my back better after my shower
so the kids would stop it, stop saying it—

because somehow my back
stayed wet all day long.

You have the same name as my grandmother’s,
Maria de Socorro, Mother of Mercy

I am still learning the difference
between the prayer and the one who prays.

Born in Mexico and raised in Tejas between two worlds, Natalia Treviño bridges understandings between those separated by arbitrary human borders. She is a winner of several literary awards and currently a professor at NorthWest Vista College in San Antonio. The poem above is reproduced with permission of the author.

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