Thursday, March 19, 2015

We Will Dance When You Sing

We Will Dance When You Sing

-- for the episcopal ordination of Fernand Cheri, OFM

They would send the boy
to the edge of the land
                                       when
one of the old ones smelled a storm
See if a stranger walks in need
and bring them
                               He was the child
who did not doubt
                                 they
had seen his haze-haunted eyes
and knew

                        One new seeking
found the man who walked   pushing
a song far before him

                                      Boy and man stood
still
         unlocking the curved bone
and stone necklace    the man
leaned to the fence

                        You belong
to this
               And his song faded
before clouds blackened the sky –

Later
           one by one   they fingered
his skin   his shirt    his hair

What must we
                         carry

Tell us
what
and how
and where
                     the circle will appear

We will dance
when you sing
                               Sun sparks
the stone
                  and then
they swim in his eyes
                                      home

to where his dream-song
led


23 March 2015
New Orleans

While this poem has its own integrity, one note is offered as background. Decades ago, the first Black Catholic Bishop of the 20th century, the Most Reverend Harold R. Perry, SVD, made a gift of his pectoral cross to then-Father Fernand J. Cheri, III -- with the blessing of "you will need this some day."  

Bishop Perry was the ordaining prelate for my own ordination, May 27, 1972, in East St. Louis, Illinois. Bishop Cheri has been a constant support and collaborator of mine for many years, including his authorial contributions to Sweet, Sweet Spirit: Prayer Services from the Black Catholic Church. This man brings what is useful of our past into the present, in order to help us walk and sing and dance into our future --which is, of course, the foundational meaning of "Sankofa".