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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prayer: Faith Healing by Isabel Lagarda, 2004

(Based on Mark 5: 21-43)

It started out as a tiny stain
a secret mark only I could see.

But then it grew
I had no control

the scarlet trickle
now so many streams
waves of body-crumpling pain
my very life flowing out
washing my worth away

A dozen years go by
like a river
a hundred thousand suspicious looks
and noses wrinkled in disgust
abhorring the sickening smell

my bleeding from within
a shame
my shame
a bleeding from within
the blame on me
itself a stain
the doubt like cobwebs in my mind
impossible to sweep aside

my twisted, lonely womb
a wasteland
exhausting years

doctors’ bloody fingers prodding
in their scientific way
uprooting memories invading,
haunting, tearing through
my flesh
hurting, the looks of so many men
condemning, the women looking away,
then the doctors’ hands held out
for coins that I no longer had
even after I swept desperately,
every corner,
on my hands and knees.

If only I could reach
the borders of some miracle.
What are the chances
some person on this miserable earth
would take the yoke of my trouble
and bear the burden with me?
No one wants to hear this story.
No one wants to look at pain.
No one believes the pain is that bad.
I cannot just curl up and hope.
I cannot wait.

The crowd swarms around me.
I am salt in the sea.
I can smell the rank sweat on the men
on all sides.
They would call me unclean
but they are no cleaner.
They’re pressing too hard;
I can barely breathe.
I am so close—just another arm’s length,
just beyond that wall of shoulders,
then I won’t have to wait
for the face-to-face plea.
I can hide, faceless, nameless, worthless
among these worthier ones.
My secret will be safe.

The healer passes by.
The crowd begs him to stay
but a synagogue leader’s child is ill—
what am I to that?
So many woes much greater than mine,
so many hands reaching for him.
If I stoop low enough
I’ll be able to touch some part of him
just a sandal strap
the edge of his robe
something, anything to connect
my stinking life
with a presence holier than all this.
I would gladly take
a crumb from his table
a scrap of his care
the leavings
a particle
—there must be some power
infinite enough
to fill a particle.

He pauses to smile at a baby who smiles.
The grown-ups are impatient.
The moment has come.

I am on my knees again.

The threads of his cloak
are just beyond my fingertips.
The blood oozes from me
as I strain to reach,
reminding me of my shame.
a little more…
a little farther…
just a little more…
I can reach him…
I grasp the cloth in my hand.
Sweet relief: it is accomplished.
At first the momentary joy is enough.

But he turns.
Somehow he knows.
Who touched me, he says.
I recoil; my hands begin to shake.
The men start to laugh
But he is dead serious.
I’m scared.
My soul is caving in.
Where can I run?
There is no place to hide.
Everyone is reaching, grasping, holding,
but he can feel the difference—
in his body
he felt the transformation
as my own body and blood were changed.

He will bring all eyes upon me
who would never merit a second glance.
You touched me, he says softly,
not in accusation
but in recognition
as if he were talking to a friend.
Please do not make me the center of all this
Please leave me in peace
Attend to that precious, precious child
Don’t delay for a woman
Whose life counts for nothing.
But this man is not like other men.
This man reverses everything.
The unnoticeable he notices;
the unlovable he loves;
punishment and payment are not his way;
suffering and death not ours.

He says I had faith before I came
but he doesn’t know
how could he know
I did not have any faith at all
I don’t even know what that is
apart from what I see in him:
enough faith
to look at each of us
as if each of us were priceless,
to know joy even in a world full of pain,
to speak to the hungry and eat with sinners,
to bring life where no life is possible.

Talitha koumi he says
as if it were that simple.
He says to those who cannot even move
Rise, pick up your mat, and walk.
Rise, he says—

and why should that be so hard?
After all
we have seen the face of God

and lived.

-Isabel Legarda, 2004