Monday, June 22, 2009


little m is named after the capital of liberia in west africa, where (along with the ivory coast next door), i spent three summers living about ten years ago. it was a time and a place that marked me forever; i lived and worked with civil war refugees in a country where such intense beauty sits side by side with incredible devastation, and it changed me. 

one summer my dear friend margaret was among the other group of americans working with me. we were both young, in our early twenties, although i felt old and wise (little did i know); i had recently graduated and maggie was still in school. among the work we did, it was a season of long talks, tears, and immersion in a place so unlike our own - one of those experiences that becomes even richer as the years pass. margaret is a poet, and in between working at all hours with liberians, she wrote poems, thoughts, memories every day in her journal. the other day i stumbled upon a stack of some of the poems she wrote that summer. 

this poem in the pile stood out to me. who knew that my own daughter would be deaf, and that i would learn to think about silence and noise in such new ways? that i would wonder what it is to hear, see, discover when you cannot hear? 

while the deaf-mute interpreter
signs out the sermon

What it must be like
to hear the word of God
silently For Moses to see
blue burnings
tracing the words into stone

"Was it Augustine," I heard someone say
"or St. Francis, who said, 'Preach the gospel
at all times; when necessary
use words" and the crowd moved murmuring
around him, closing in their assents,
arguing the source. "Maybe," a preacher
preached once, "Maybe the people come in 
droves every Sunday--not to hear me speak,
but to watch me burn--"
and I wonder with what kind of fire he meant--the kind
that cracks, or the kind that smooths
over unhousing headlands of mustard plants
leaving columns of ash
where the grass had been.


  1. that was really beautiful.

  2. Thanks for sharing that. I had wondered whether Monrovia was a family name or something. It's beautiful.


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