Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honk if You're Polish. . .

or Scottish, or English

I’ve got to admit
I’m more than a bit envious
when I visit friends
whose families have accents
and celebrate holidays I’ve never heard of.

I'm more than a bit envious
when they show me how to make food
that they’re parents taught them to make,
who were taught to make it by their parents,
who taught them to make it in a country
I’ve only seen on a map.

I’m envious because my ethnicity is mixed and
I have no clue what it means
to be Polish or Scottish or English.
I’ve never been to any of those places,
I don’t know my family’s tartan,
I’ve never had blood pudding,
and the only thing Polish I’ve ever eaten
is a Polish sausage;
which I only recently learned not to smoother in ketchup.

I’ve never heard Polish or
whatever language they spoke in Scotland back-in-the-day.
I’ve never worn a kilt or played a bag-pipe.
I’ve never pronounced the name of a Polish town correctly.
It’s hard for me to find any link between who I am
and who my ancestors were

The house I grew up in
did not have Celtic crosses
coats of arms or Polish flags.
We didn’t even have bumper stickers
asking those with similar national origin to honk.

I know I’m not alone in this.
There are others with lost heritages.
Some of us don’t have culture
deeper than our ankles,
least not in our ethnicity.

But what I do have
is my church,
a tiny cup and
part of a cracker.

In these things
I have roots.
I have to look deep.
I have to look close, to see

the same cup
given thanks for by the same Man
whose blood would fill it.

I have to look close
to see the same cup
Peter, James and John
drank from back-in-the-day.

I have to look deep to see my heritage,
not without blemish.
I’m not about to try and make any excuses,
but I know there’s more to my faith
than the Crusades and the Inquisition.

I have to look deep into that cracker
to see the body, the gospel,
living and continuing,
passed down
from faith to faith
from Paul to Timothy.
From martyrs in the Coliseum
to St. Francis talking to birds.
From celibate monks singing Psalms in the desert
to Martin Luther drinking beer and nailing notes on doors.
From Paul writing letters in a Roman prison
to Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing letters in a Nazi Prison.
From ancient Palestine to modern Africa.
From the apostles on down the centuries
to myself, sitting in a folding chair
looking down at a cracker and cup.

I don’t know what it means
to be Polish, English or Scottish.
My family had dropped their accents
long before I was around.

But when I look down
at a tiny cup of grape juice
and a broken cracker
I’m not quite as bummed
that I didn’t inherit
the ability to play the bag-pipe
or make pierogis
or the habit of drinking tea in the afternoon;
because when I look at that sacrament
I see a one body made of all nations
one loaf made of many grains
held together by one God
in whose image we are all made
and who welcomes all nations
to come and eat
and find a new inheritance.

1 comment:

graham said...

I think you have improved this. If this is the same version I read, then maybe I am in a better poem-reading mood. but it feels tighter and like it is saying what you want it to better.