Breathing Under Water
What follows is a poem written by a nun practiced in contemplative prayer. A poem ought to speak for itself. It is dull and rude to ruin good works of art by attempting to distill them down to some supposedly clearer message or practical application. So at the risk of being dull and rude (I am what I am, I cannot lie), I am offering this particular poem now as a companion to my sermon from March 29th, "A Love Stronger Than Death," in which I asked you to believe that in the face of death (and the Coronavirus) Love asks us to slow down and linger, Love asks us to cease activity and learn to truly mourn, for only at the very bottom of our surface anxieties do we face our final and deepest fear: Death. And only then and there are we helpless, still, quiet, and open enough to fully experience Love giving new life. But perhaps you should forget all this and come back in a while when you have time to enjoy this poem for its own sake.
BREATHING UNDER WATER
by Sr. Carol Bieleck, RSCJ
I built my house by the sea. Not on the sands, mind you; not on the shifting sand. And I built it of rock.
A strong house by a strong sea. And we got well acquainted, the sea and I. Good neighbors. Not that we spoke much. We met in silences. Respectful, keeping our distance, but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand. Always, the fence of sand our barrier, always, the sand between.
And then one day, -and I still don’t know how it happened - the sea came. Without warning.
Without welcome, even Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine, less like the flow of water than the flow of blood. Slow, but coming. Slow, but flowing like an open wound. And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death. And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door. And I knew, then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning. That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors, Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors, And you give your house for a coral castle, And you learn to breathe underwater.