The Lady of October

By Rita Gadi

(This poem was published in the Varsitarian in 1963 and won the third prize in the 1964 Palanca Awards.)
                                        Part I

First Nun:

Nothing remotely suggests
what the moon has tried
to conceal: at the foot of the mountain
we found a penitent, clinging to his
nightshirt, counting his fingers
and crying,
weeping under the shadow
of the moon, but the shadows
failed to hide his tears, and the moon
shone like the witch hysterical
over the water on his cheeks.

Second Nun:

Somewhere
in the crowded city
we heard
the song of the Lady hugging the walls
of an old cathedral.
A song of sorrow asking to be heard
above the waves of a crowded city’s
voice. It was asking to be heard
because the City suffers from a famine;
there is no wheat coming from the fields,
the earth has turned a yellow color
—now dry and ruinous.

First Nun:

But the moonlight could not dry his tears.

Second Nun:

The birds from the city have
fallen with the rains.
The song of the Lady re-echoes
through the grief and the glory;

“We cannot sleep the nights. Our eyes
are parched. The days are hot and long
carrying an emptiness more
than the hollow
in our stomachs.
And I know that death is not far from us.”

First Nun:

He wept for his sins and wet the earth
beneath his knees.
But his tears were salt, and the earth
bore no fruit, no green, not even
a stir opening to the small, small drops.

Second Nun:

Only She lamented the hunger of the City.
The people knew they were starving
but were too busy to care why or where
to ask for food. For the City, it is true,
has much oil for its cars, and
power for its lights.
In that mass of machines where everything
opens and closes, moves and stops
the growing of the grass, the green,
the stir of the wind,
the temper of the sea, the thunder
from the mountains—all these echoes
of heaven
are not heard.

First Nun:

Hunger in a penitent’s soul
is all the pain the dry season brings.
Tears by the mountains huddled
what manner of man is this that kneels
by the stone, and strikes his breast
with sounds like prayer?

The voice of prayer goes beyond
the fire in the breast
beyond the swell of watered eyes.
The voice of prayer comes
from a sanctuary
of stillness, where a Child could
dwell between the metal and the spirit.
A condition of complete simplicity,
where a world is complete before the Altar
and a heart without the world,
simple.

The people must know of the famine
cast among their banquets and their appetites,
they do not notice the clouds
that pass with no water in them,
driven before the winds, autumn trees
bearing no fruit; life plucked by the roots.

First Nun:

Who shall tell the people?

Second Nun:

Before the Black Sea, there were thirty pairs.

 

                                         Part II

The Lady:

From the blessed St. John
a message to thee from the Truth
the source from which God’s creation began:

“I know of the doings, and find these
neither cold nor hot.
Being what thou art, lukewarm,
make me vomit thee out of my mouth.
See where I stand at the door
knocking: if anyone listens to my voice
and opens the door, I will come in
to visit him, and take my supper with
him.”

Chorus:

Listen, you who have ears, to the message

The Lady:

The Spirit has for the people.
They have ruined the churches,
and many have died . . .

Chorus:

Without prayers for their graves

The Lady:

Unheeding the bitter waters

Chorus:

. . . of hell.

The Lady:

Who shall tell us what to do?
When hearts like doors have closed themselves
and the streets have crowded with cheerers
Mocking a Man riding a donkey,
the tide of the traffic has thickened
over the square;
does not a Child come up to the Man
that He may ask
for all to hear: “Unless you become
as little children, you shall not enter
My kingdom.”

What, no child?

Chorus:

Was that laughter?

First Nun:

Hail Mary
we turn to thee.
The Lamb of God, behold!
mocked by electronic robots
and computing machines.

Second Nun:

Holy Mary,
behold our vineyards: the clusters
look rich and ripe
but when gathered and pressed before
His judgment . . .

Chorus:

Lord, hear our cries
Have mercy, have mercy

Two Nuns:

The vintage from the earth gave us wine
Not one single drop
for the Figure on the Cross
Who shed His last for them

The Lady:

The crop of the earth is dry
Go to the nuns, ask them to pray!

First Nun:

The world is neither the convent
nor the church door, only.

Second Nun:

The Lord did not die for the convent
nor the church door, only.

Chorus:

The sinner by the stone mountain
with his false consfessions has been
invited for dinner.
Go, tell him to dress himself
and attend
the Banquet of the Lord,
and there
pour out his grief that penance
may be anointed over his forehead
and he may go
to the Square in the morrow to proclaim:
“I can see! I am blind no more!”

The Lady:

In the square, the people are too busy
feasting with their gold.
They do not seem to starve for food.
They do not seem to go blind, or deaf,
or mute,
or sick with the palsy.

What then?

Chorus:

Shall the blind man made seeing,
the sinner pardoned,
be heard over the waves of traffic and noise?
When the temper of the tide shall rise
and fall,
when the earth shall be open and made green,
when the birds come homing from the South,
when the sharp sickle of the Angel gathers
the world’s vintage
shall the people in the square
pause from their hurry and look to the sky
bensding their knees in prayer to cry:
“Lord, are we not worthy?”

 

                                        Part II

Chorus:

Nothing remotely suggests
what the moon has tried to conceal:
at the foot of the mountains
we found a penitent clinging to his
nightshirt, counting his fingers
and crying.
Weeping under the shadows of the moon,
but the shadows failed to hide
his tears and the moon shone
like the witch hysterical over
the waters on his cheeks.

Two Nuns:

Bend the knees before the Sanctuary
and make the voice of prayer
strike the breast to
Open, Open, Open!

The Lady:

“If anyone listens to my voice
and opens the door, I will come in
to visit him, and take my supper
with him.
Listen, you who have ears,
to the message
the Spirit has for the people!”

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