This past month, I received my certificate of Canadian citizenship. It was a moving event that reminded me of all the things my grandmother taught me-by her words and by her silence.
My dear friend, Fr. Ewan MacPherson, now living in Wells, Somerset, U.K., sent me a poem that spoke in the same voice of my grandmother long ago. (Ewan’s poetry was recently recognized by The Fellowship of Christian Poets, www.christianpoets.com, when he was named Christian Poet of the Year 2009.) His poem says some of things that can’t quite be said, outside of poetry, and speaks for all of us who hear….
The Voice Within
In some deep place within me
I hear Canada.
Her voice salty with endless seas;
Flowing across oceans of wheat,
On the prairies-
Taut as the muscled strength
Of the couriers du bois
With their Norman French,
Their quiet belief in themselves
And their wonderful songs.
Soft as the Gaelic of men and women
Thrown off their land,
Because sheep and profits
Were more important than people;
Raised aloft like the prayers
At the Buddhist temple in Richmond;
Lowered and almost wailing
Like the Psalms of those
Who escaped a murderous man;
And one with the land itself,
Like a leaf falling; like a stream running,
Like feathers in flight.
They are the words of the Huron.
They are the words of the Haida.
They are the words of the Ojibway and the Cree.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I have been away a long time;
And only those who have done that,
Keeping faith with what they knew;
And never forgetting;
Only those can hear.
Only those can know the voice of a Mother,
Only those have the strength
The right and the longing
To travel again to their home.
-Ewan MacPherson, Sep. 1, 2009.
Bishop Mark MacDonald is the national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.