Can You Hear Me?

swaraj-tiwari-132891

Squirming and wiggling inside the womb,
dancing the best she could
in her tight warm pool.
The steady heartbeat.
The slow and smooth rhythm of the diaphragm.
The soft vibrations of her mother’s
hymn-singing with a honeyed voice.
She could feel it.
She danced to worship God
for the life she was going to live
under the care of this woman.
Her mother must have felt her movement.
“Baby, can you hear me?”

Ten years old, hand-clapping with her little sister
near the river that ran by the church.
The river she was baptized in.
The roar of the river helped her keep the beat.
The rush of the current.
The heat released in the slapping of hands.
The throb of her sister’s quick but steady pulse.
She could feel it.
So caught up in the dancing moment
she barely listened as her sister tried to share
a precious childhood secret.
“Sister, can you hear me?”

Twenty-one years old, swinging to the gospel beat
with the boy she’d always known
at a church party.
The swell of the choir.
The thump of the base drum.
The familiar grooves of his right hand.
She could feel it.
He told her that he loved her
in a language that only they both knew.
But his message was lost
in the current of swirling music.
“Honey, can you hear me?”

Thirty-four years old, humming “Wade in the Water”
as she braided her ten-year-old daughter’s hair
in her small wooden cottage by the church.
Her daughter tried to sing along with her
to memorize the hymn for the Sunday school talent show.
The kinks of the thick hair.
The steady drip from the leak in the ceiling.
The soft vibrations of her daughter’s innocent voice.
She could feel it.
She leaned into the world’s familiar grooves,
lulled by its steady pulse.
“Momma, can you hear me?”

Older than she cared to remember, leaning back
in her old rocking chair
in the same wooden cottage by the church.
Her ten-year-old grandson watched a documentary
on the Jordan River,
babbling questions.
The steady creak of the rocking chair.
The whir of the television set.
The peace of distant waters.
She could feel it.
She danced as she drifted towards
the life she was going to live
under the care of her Holy Father.

“Grandma, can you hear me?”

Eternally young, looking down from heaven
to the cemetery near the river that ran by the church.
The river that she, her daughter, and her grandson
were baptized in.
But her grandson hadn’t been near the river
or the church
or any church
for longer than he cared to remember.
Until the day he visited her tombstone.
The dance of the river.
The hum of the worship music.
The steady call of the Gospel.
He could feel it.

He fell to his knees and pressed his face
into the resurrected cemetery grass.
“Oh Dear God, can you hear me?”