Once there was a North African baby who was named after me, and before she was a year old, she died tragically. A few years later, our translator’s baby daughter — named after one of my teammates — also died. I am tempted to say this is their story, and the story of many thousands of babies like them born into poverty and war. But it’s not. It’s my story. My wrestling with questions that don’t have answers: Why do babies die? How do humans cope with trauma? What does it mean to be the Body of Christ in the upside down Kingdom of God? (Luke 16:9)
I sit on the ground with your mother and twenty more
who mourn in the threadbare shade outside the hovel
where you were born. The mats beneath us are frayed
and worn, our bare feet lean against each other. Flies hover.
She’s telling me of last night in words that collect
in the low places of my mind faster than I can hold,
these particulars of sorrow to be sifted later — eyes white,
spine arched, skin too hot and then too cold.
The old women near us are loud, their mirth a proud
obscenity jabbed in death’s face. Slurping tea, spitting in the sand,
mocking a neighbor — your grandmothers’ laughter a resistance,
cradling with insistence the waste of you.
You carried my strange name for a short time, a
diminutive from your language, two syllables from mine.
Perhaps it is from this tie that binds our otherwise
discordant lives that I have the courage to ask you now —
— had you begun to understand the light?
Was the world gathering form for you yet, the play
of color and shadow blended? In your clumsy newness, did
you sense your own boundaries, wonder where you began and ended?
My bones may carry me for many years more
before I lie down with you in the dirt, but in time
these questions will still be mine. My eyes will close
holding only a strained glance of what may yet be.
Please welcome me then,
teach me to see.