Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Aaron Baker

Aaron Baker grew up in a remote village in Papua New Guinea as a son of missionaries, and his first collection of poems, Mission Work, reflects this particular context. It is filled with intersections and overtones of both Christian cultural crossover and the indigenous myths and stories he imbibed growing up. The poem below beautifully captures the network of imagery and situations explored throughout the entire collection, as well as the challenging inherited experiences that constitute Baker's story. Enjoy!

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A Prayer

By Aaron Baker

My father, deep in malarial fever, keeps floating away
on his bed.
Damp rag in my fist. Knot in my neck.
Night beyond the curtains is gathering silence.
My father's slick face twists, as if in deep concentration
on a single idea.
Sick light of a lantern, stink of vomit and sweat.
My mother keeps putting her hands on my shoulders.
My father sits up, I hand him the bucket.
When he's done with it, I give him water.
"Put your hands on me," he asks, so we do it.
My mother folds her hands in his. Mine go palm-down
on his chest.
Deep breaths in the stillness.
He flutters hie eyelids.
I intone, as he's taught me,
a request for God's mercy if it's His will to give it,
for His strength if it's not.
My father's whole body trembles.
His life rises again and again in my hands.

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