Monday, August 28, 2006

There Was a Missionary Went Forth

Here's another I've had in reserve so y'all will have something to read while I'm busy with life. See some of you at EG Conference!



There Was a Missionary Went Forth

After Walt Whitman's “There Was a Child Went Forth”


There was a missionary went forth every day,

And every object he looked upon, that object he became

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or for the whole two years or for all the rest of his years.

The mangy perros became part of this missionary,

And the frosted white fig trees and hail, and warm bags of roasted chestnuts tucked under his coat,

And the Antarctic wind roaring across the icy waves,

And the neighbor’s gigantic roan ox, and the fat turkeys, and the gregarious pengüinos,

And the muddy roads that try to swallow travelers’ feet, and the snow falling in the streetlights onto the black rolling ocean,

And the vaulted sky feeling so far away, and the sun setting like mixing paint behind the jagged cerro,

And the clouds parting on the horizon to let through picturesque shards of dawn, all became part of him.

The blackberry bushes and the frambuesa became part of him,

Flaky empenadas and frozen brown bananas, and the guinea fowl chattering in the back yard,

And the angry river threatening to rise right up to the house, and the weeks with no sunlight, and the mist swirling upon the perfectly reflective mountain lake right in the middle of town,

And the old drunk man begging by the bus stop,

And the teenage snakes, whistling, and vying for attention,

And the government employed women gossiping in an empty field with shovels, and the

shopkeepers in their tiendas, mindlessly watching their novelas,

And the viejitos crossing themselves for protection as they walked by, and the sad

Prostitutas on the corner by the bar,

And the crazy Mamita, laughing at her own jokes, kwa kwa kwa,

And the investigator who never quit smoking, and his hijitas with the most beautiful brown eyes,

And the old man in the hut, tending his pollitos and never missing church,

And the escrituras, the only friends from back home allowed to come along,

And all the wonders of ocean and mountain wherever he went.

His parents sent letters, which came to a p.o. box in Panguipulli, and then were forwarded on the bus that was the only inlet and outlet of the town,

The letters that sustained him and tied him to the realities of home.

Mother at home, offering advice and quoting scripture,

Mother asking for prayers, and encouraging and worrying, sending food and ties and most importantly a “Love, Mom” every week like clockwork,

Father, seldom, jocular, narrow-minded, faithless, supportive,

His letters, emphasis steered away from matters of God and faith and accountability,

The postcards, the packages, the biannual phone calls, the newspaper clippings, the admonitions,

The temptations of el diablo, the whisperings of the spirit, the shadow of doubt creeping in,

Hunger for knowledge, trust in companions, whom to teach and where to go,

Whether a day’s labor has made any difference, Whether the standards taught are the standards lived,

Men and women and families walking by in the streets, and which ones would be receptive?

The high, overly paved roads and the silly Toyland-colored houses, and the panaderías with their sticky berlíneres,

Taxicabs, carts pulled by bueyes, ice-slicked hills, frozen dirt paths converging in el centro,

Fallen fences, tundra, grapevines, wood smoke filling the valley,

The view from up on the hill where the whole village, the whole flock, looked like one sunken bustling jewel box,

The workers lining up outside the mousetrap factory and the lechería in the dark hours of morning,

The sheets of ice careening in the Straight of Magellan,

The stars striving to outshine each other,

The fleas and the bedbugs dead from the cold the next day,

The spot on the ground that leads through the earth’s mantle and comes up back home,

The stiff frozen line of laundry, the smells of running water and shivering sweat, the boots tragically still wet when it’s time to put them on again,

The desperate love, the long-sought testimony, the sincere prayers, and the sturdy faith,

These became a part of that missionary who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth and thrust in his sickle every day.

9 comments:

Mustard said...

I felt as if I were with you in Chile as I read these words. You paint a beautifully vivid picture. Love, Mom

buh said...

I'm too sleepy to read the words of Tobias, but I will later for sure.

Anonymous said...

what an interesting poem. thank you for sharing.

Sara Bear said...

Guess who rejoined us on the blogosphere...

hint: I married him.

Kengo Biddles said...

Smurf...that was beautiful. I too felt like I was there...and it made me homesick for my mission. Quite the gift you have.

JB said...

That was beautiful.

Mustard said...

Baby Smurf, I am steamed that my Witches, Ghosts and Goblins book is missing! I want it back now! No joking!

FJ said...

Hey SmurfBoy

I happen to be a poet myself.I have written lots in the years.I am glad to meet another poet.Thanks for posting.FJ

Kwonchy said...

Hey Smurf! That was an amazing. I can't wait to do my part when i go on a mission. I hope that somday I have a fraction of the talent you have.