martes, 5 de junio de 2018

Ragman

by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

                  I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for.
                  Hush, child. Hush, now, and I will tell it to you.
                  Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: "Rags!'' Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.
                  "Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!"
                  "Now, this is a wonder," I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?
                  I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed.
                  Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, sighing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.
                  The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.
                  "Give me your rag," he said so gently, "and I'll give you another."
He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.
Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then he began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.
                  "This is a wonder," I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.
                  "Rags! Rags! New rags for old!"
                  In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.
                  Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.
                  "Give me your rag," he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, "and I'll give you mine."
The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood—his own!
                  "Rags! Rags! I take old rags!" cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.
                  The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.
                  "Are you going to work?" he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head.
                  The Ragman pressed him: "Do you have a job?"
                  "Are you crazy?" sneered the other.  He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket—flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.
"So," said the Ragman. "Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine."
Such quiet authority in his voice.
                  The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman—and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman's arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.
                  "Go to work," he said.
After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.
                  And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.
                  I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I needed to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.
            The little old Ragman—he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.
                  Oh, how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope—because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.
I did not know—how could I know?—that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night, too.
But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.
Light—pure, hard, demanding light—slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the last and the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow nor of age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.
Well, then I lowered my head and, trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: "Dress me."

                  He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!

sábado, 28 de abril de 2018

The Woman at the Well

By Gary B. Swanson

         The door swung open, clattering against the wall, and the woman hurried in.
         A man rolled over on the bed, scowling in the sudden sunlight. "Where is your jar?" he asked. "I thought you'd gone for water."
         The woman's face glowed with the heat of the waning afternoon or was it something else? He couldn't tell.
         "I have no further need for water," she said breathlessly.
         He rolled his eyes. "You and your riddles!"
         She laughed. "I've seen the Messiah."
         The man looked at her more closely. "Have you indeed? You went out for water and you found the Messiah."
         "He is at Jacob's well."
         "Just sitting there passing the afternoon, is He?"
         The woman turned abruptly serious. "Don't mock me! I know what I've seen."
         "Why are you so sure that He is the Messiah?"
         "He knows my whole life. He knows of my marriages. He knows of you and me . . ."
         "Everyone in Sychar knows of you and me; there's nothing remarkable in that."
         "But no one else has known the desperation we've admitted only to each other the times we've clung together, weeping in the darkness."
         The man turned away. "You swore you would never tell anyone of that."
         She sat down next to him reached out and touched his shoulder. "I didn't tell Him; He told me. It seems He knows us better than we do ourselves. He knows what we want what we really want."
         "What do we really want?"
         "You will know that when you see Him."
         "I am not a religious man . . ."
         She took his hand and led him toward the door. "That is just the part that is most thrilling neither is He."


Insight, January 24, 1984

viernes, 27 de abril de 2018

Borderbus

By Juan Felipe Herrera
Por Juan Felipe Herrera

A dónde vamos where are we going
Speak in English or the guard is going to come 
A dónde vamos where are we going
Speak in English or the guard is gonna get us hermana
Pero qué hicimos but what did we do
Speak in English come on
Nomás sé unas pocas palabras I just know a few words
You better figure it out hermana the guard is right there
See the bus driver
Tantos días y ni sabíamos para dónde íbamos
So many days and we didn’t know where we were headed
I know where we’re going
Where we always go
To some detention center to some fingerprinting hall or cube
Some warehouse after warehouse
Pero ya nos investigaron ya cruzamos ya nos cacharon
Los federales del bordo qué más quieren 
But they already questioned us we already crossed over they
already grabbed us the Border Patrol what more do they want
We are on the bus now
this is all
A dónde vamos te digo salí de Honduras 
No hemos comido nada y dónde vamos a dormir
Where we are going I am telling you I came from Honduras
We haven’t eaten anything and where are we going to sleep
I don’t want to talk about it just tell them
That you came from nowhere
I came from nowhere
And we crossed the border from nowhere
And now you and me and everybody else here is
On a bus to nowhere you got it?
Pero por eso nos venimos para salir de la nada
But that’s why we came to leave all that nothing behind
When the bus stops there will be more nothing
We’re here hermana
Y esas gentes quiénes son
no quieren que siga el camión
No quieren que sigamos
Están bloqueando el bus
A dónde vamos ahora
Those people there who are they
they don’t want the bus to keep going 
they don’t want us to keep going
now they are blocking the bus
so where do we go
What?
He tardado 47 días para llegar acá no fue fácil hermana
45 días desde Honduras con los coyotes los que se – bueno
ya sabes lo que les hicieron a las chicas allí mero en frente
de nosotros pero qué íbamos a hacer y los trenes los trenes 
cómo diré hermana cientos de 
nosotros como gallinas como topos en jaulas y verduras
pudriéndose en los trenes de miles me oyes de miles y se resbalaban
de los techos y de los desiertos de Arizona de Tejas sed y hambre
sed y hambre dos cosas sed y hambre día tras día hermana
y ahora quí en este camión y quién sabe a dónde
vamos hermana fijate vengo desde Brownsville dónde nos amarraron
y ahora en California pero todavía no entramos y todavía el bordo
está por delante
It took me 47 days to get here it wasn’t easy hermana
45 days from Honduras with the coyotes the ones that – well
you know what they did to las chicas
right there in front of us so what were we supposed
to do and the trains the trains how can I tell you hermana hundreds
of us like chickens like gophers in cages and vegetables
rotting on trains of thousands you hear me of thousands and they slid
from the rooftops and the deserts of Arizona and Texas thirst and hunger
thirst and hunger two things thirst and hunger day after day hermana
and now here on this bus of who-knows-where we are going
hermana listen I come from Brownsville where they tied us up 
and now in California but still we’re not inside and still the border
lies ahead of us
I told you to speak in English even un poquito
the guard is going to think we are doing something
people are screaming outside
they want to push the bus back
Pero para dónde le damos hermana
por eso me vine
le quebraron las piernas a mi padre 
las pandillas mataron a mi hijo
solo quiero que estemos juntos
tantos años hermana
separados
But where do we go hermana
that’s why I came here
they broke my father’s legs
gangs killed my son
I just want us to be together
so many years hermana
pulled apart
Why?
Mi madre me dijo que lo más importante 
es la libertad la bondad y las buenas acciones
con el prójimo
My mother told me that the most important thing
is freedom kindness and doing good
for others
What are you talking about?
I told you to be quiet
La libertad viene desde muy adentro
allí reside todo el dolor de todo el mundo
el momento en que purguemos ese dolor de nuestras entrañas 
seremos libres y en ese momento tenemos que 
llenarnos de todo el dolor de todos los seres
para liberarlos a ellos mismos
Freedom comes from deep inside
all the pain of the world lives there
the second we cleanse that pain from our guts
we shall be free and in that moment we have to 
fill ourselves up with all that pain of all beings
to free them – all of them
The guard is coming well
now what maybe they’ll take us 
to another detention center we’ll eat we’ll have a floor
a blanket toilets water and each other
for a while
No somos nada y venimos de la nada
pero esa nada los es todo si la nutres de amor
por eso venceremos
We are nothing and we come from nothing
but that nothing is everything, if you feed it with love
that is why we will triumph
We are everything hermana
Because we come from everything.

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. Herrera was the United States Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017.