North to South

by Bruce Lohmann

I chose to write about our experience though a poem. The best poems for me using have parts that are clear and parts I do not easily understand.  Poems make me struggle to get the meaning, or the meanings the poet intended even as some parts seem clear, other parts may have multiple meanings.

The Sister Parish experience is a poem, for we clearly perceive parts of what it means, but if you ask anyone of those who have been part of a delegation, they may say that they are still trying to figure out what it means to them, our church, our country and the people of San Antonio de Cunen. This poem is part of my effort to make get my own head and own heart around the amazing experience I am so grateful to be part of.


North to South

For some, old friends and for others
New ones,
Await us as
We travel
On a
Blustery rainy San Francisco night,
Weeks of planning
Weeks of study
we finally fly
from North to  South

The Guatemalan Customs Officer escorts us pass the checkpoint
No need to search their luggage
They are Americans
They are welcome
Bienvenido a la Capital, they tell us
Welcome to Guatemala City
we quietly receive the official courtesy
we enjoy not having our belongings searched
We see that we are treated differently
For we are Americans
American Tourists are always welcome

Leaving the Airport
We look at each other
We know we are different
We know that we are not the usual visitors
Not tourists at all
For we come
From North to South
For other reasons
For reasons not easily explained

a long drive
many hours
but we are all together
we share songs
stops along the way
to eat, hug, pray and dance
with Linda and her old friends
but we must journey soon
away from them
climbing the mountain  roads
to our sister church in the Sierra
to San Antonio de Cunen

full download march 21 2016 2118 Jocelyn

We greet our host families
In pairs, we split off
For the first night
For dinner, for talk

Only then, at the table
As we share the corn and beans
I begin to get it
Corn tortillas
Black beans
the dark smoky kitchen
Flames and smoke poking past the pots and grill
Dancing from the wood burning stove
As we eat
I begin to get it

Sharing their corn
And black beans
Home and hearth
Can I start to see
Can I almost see
Only sisters and brothers
Mothers and fathers
Eating at a crowded
Unpainted common wooden table
But a table at once uncommon
Americans eating with Descendants of Mayan peoples
decimated and impoverished
fertile coastal lands long ago stolen
These steep mountains
A final refuge

Plots cut into the unforgivingly steep  land
corn, onions and apple trees
Prayers for rain
so often unheeded
Never enough to live on

Quiche men abandoning their own fields
Their own families for weeks
Or months
cut cane for the sugar companies
harvest coffee and cardamon
In the distant coastal lands
to earn a little money
Money to keep on
Living with not enough
Never enough
But enough to share

IMG_1655Not enough to live on
Always enough to share

Corn tortillas,
corn ground before the sun rises
dough quickly hand shaped
Into rounds no larger than the woman’s hand
That lays them silently on the smoke blacked grill
Hands silently turning them
making more
As the others eat

For three days and nights
It is always the same meal
A good meal,
Satisfying like no meal before
Grace said in Spanish
For we speak no Quiche
their Mayan language

At each meal
We will silently marvel again at the beans,
Soft and shiny black in their own dark juice
Hints of onion and  garlic

At each meal
Tortillas are again
filled with beans
sometimes graced
with  a piece of soft white cheese
an ounce or two of chicken,
but mostly not

Each meal,
This harvest from their tiny fields ,
Always the smoke-filled kitchen
The too small wooden table
But  enough to share

it is enough to share
From South to North
And from North to South
There is enough to share
And It is enough to share


About sisterparishinc

Building community across borders.
This entry was posted in Delegations, General, Guatemala, North to South and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to North to South

  1. Arlene Reed says:

    Bruce – This is wonderful!! Thank you!
    Arlene Reed, former Sister Parish Board Member and President

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