One Thing Leads to Another

by Mark Chmiel

Becca Gorley studied with me
In a Social Justice class fall 2007

I learned that semester
How much she loved poetry

She kept a notebook of new words
She’d come across and then make them a part of her

She seemed a kindred soul to Walt Whitman
So I gave her  his Poetry and Prose

That next spring semester
We decided to read poets together

Meet at Coffee Cartel
Share favorites, read aloud

One of those books we read
Was by Daisy Zamora

The Nicaraguan revolutionary and feminist
Her love poem to Father Ernesto Cardenal touched me

I remembered Cardenal from the 1980s
Minister of Culture under the Sandinistas

Friend of Thomas Merton
Latter day antagonist of Daniel Berrigan

So  moved was I by Daisy’s poem
I began reading Cardenal

And I keep reading him
Early works

Revolutionary works
Cosmic mystical works

Even though I was reading him in translation
He helped free up my imagination

With his practice of exteriorismo
And montage holding it all

I had been stuck
On a writing project involving Palestine

Slowly I lightened up
Trusted instinct

Was reading The Doubtful Strait
and Zero Hour and Other Documentary Poems

Didn’t worry about logic
Or linearity

Was reading “Room 5600”
and Cardenal’s letter to Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga

And  eventually Dear Layla
Welcome to Palestine

In time for me to give it
To Nima Sheth

(Who with beloved Matt Miller
Three times traveled to Palestine)

On the occasion of her graduation
From the SLU Medical School

I stop to consider: What if Becca had taken
A different theology class that fall?

Today’s gratitudes
For Becca and Walt

Daisy and Ernesto
Nima and Matt

Zanmi Becca Gorley

Zanmi Becca Gorley