A Journey to Tepeyac
Hear a tale of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In the Mexican village of Tepeyac,
On the very site of an ancient shrine
Sacred to Tonantzin, mother of all gods,
The Queen of the Americas graces
All those faithful who journey here in hope
And love, some on a litter of pain, some on their
In the summer of the year
Of our Lord 1939, the widow
Lupita Jimenez fell, cutting her
Leg on a sharpened stake. The wound festered
Painfully, and, fevered, she could not rise
From her pallet, even to tend her beloved
Son, Juan Diego, or their treasured burro,
Source of their only wealth, hauling charcoal
For the village. Even as her leg refused
To heal, the burro sickened and died in
The heat. Soon centavos, then food, dwindled.
Juan Diego was strong, and lacked no love
For his mother. “Mama, what are we to do?”
“Take me to Tepeyac,” she said, “to pray
Our Lady, lest we die.” “But Mama, our
Burro is dead! How can I? God help me
I will carry you myself; tell me the way.”
So Juan Diego packed what food they had,
With a pallet and pillow for his mother,
Wrapping them in a strong blanket with a
Large and heavy flask of water. Then he
Trudged two miles toward Tepeyac and left them
Beside the path to hurry home. There, he
Hoisted his dear mother upon his back,
And made his way slowly to the cache. Setting
His mother gently down, he stopped to rest and drink.
Then he lifted the lightening pack, and
Walked another two miles, to deposit
The load and return to his beloved mother.
This he did over ten days and sixty
Miles, for her, one hundred eighty for him.
On the way, travelers who saw what love
Was here, heaped food upon them, and praises
For Juan Diego. “Go with God,” they said.
During those hours, neither noticing, the
Salt of the sweat of his devotion worked upon
Her wound, and slowly it healed in silence,
As Our Lady awaited at Tepeyac.
Once there, they looked, in awe, at the clean scar.
Blessing in thankfulness the Virgin’s love,
That woman walk home unaided with her son,
Bearing in her strong arms a sack of gifted meal.
The Night Is Coming, When None Can Work
Life builds eyes at need, a jelly to let
The light come in, and makes them fade, as well.
Pale blind cave fish feel, not see; with endless
Night eyes fall vestige, costly luxury.
Before sight, no scene yearned for seers, no
Sky blued for us. Fear forced eyes upon flesh:
We are mice, and the night fills with owls,
Spawn, floating in a wash of famished jaws.
Maybe no vision in heaven, either, no
Loveliness without the lens to view it.
What if eternity were retrospect alone,
Yet not long enough for love and wonder?
Open your eyes, see what you can with them,
Now, before they both fold shut forever.
***Randel McCraw Helms retired from the English Department at Arizona State University in 2007, having taught classes in the Romantic poets, the Bible as Literature and contemporary literature there for thirty years. He is the author of five books of literary criticism, including “Tolkien’s World,” “Who Wrote the Gospels?” and “Gospel Fictions.”
Making poems is his lifelong avocation, and now he has time to write them as much as he wants. He is preparing a book of poems to be entitled “Matters of Life and Death.”***