Friday, October 28, 2005

All Saints

BREATHS

Listen more often to things than to beings,
Listen more often to things than to beings -
Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters.

Those who have died have never, never left -
The dead are not under the earth!
They are in the rustling trees,
They are in the groaning woods,
They are in the crying grass,
They are in the moaning rocks -
The dead are not under the earth.

So, listen more often to things than to beings,
Listen more often to things than to beings -
Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters.

Those who have died have never, never left -
The dead have a pact with the living:
They are in the woman's breast,
They are in the wailing child,
They are with us in the home,
They are with us in this crowd -
The dead have a pact with the living.

So, listen more often to things than to beings,
Listen more often to things than to beings -
Tis the ancestors' breath when the fire's voice is heard,
Tis the ancestors' breath in the voice of the waters,
Aah. . . ahh. . . ahhhh.

Adapted from poem by Birago Diop
Set to music by Ysaye m. Barnwell



At left is a prosphora, a wooden seal used to mark altar bread in a Greek Orthodox church. In the early days of Christianity, the word prosphora (offering) was used to designate the food offered by the community to be shared - after the best portion was set aside for the Eucharist, the remainder would be used for the agape (love-feast) after the liturgy. In modern times, the remaining bread is distributed to the koinonia, the people in communion, to take a bit of blessing to their homes. A seal like this one is the only thing I have that belonged to my great-grandmother, Georgia Vergounis, a faithful, founding member of the church in the Ohio town to which she immigrated around 1915. It's so fitting, that this is what was left to me - all my memories of her revolve around her cooking, her warmth, her feeding people.

My grandmother, her daughter, told me of her other gifts - how people would come to the house in the middle of the night, seeking charms for healing, laying on of hands, quite outside the circle of orthodoxy, let alone "modern" America. How such things had to be done in secret - women's work, like birthing and attending the dying - only spoken of with hushed voices.

I can hear the whispers still. . .

4 Comments:

Blogger mireille said...

lovely. xoxo

11:35 PM  
Blogger Bela said...

That's a beautiful song! And what a lovely memento! :-)

12:29 PM  
Blogger ParisLondres said...

Beautiful post dear D!

xoxo

2:33 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

M, J, N - thank you for reading :>)

6:26 AM  

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