The Ways of Walls and Words
by Sabrina Vourvoulias
“If it were not for Thee, what would become of me?”
She’s not speaking to me when she says this. Her poetry nests behind a prison’s walls. I am an unknown noise on the other side of her door—the only spot where sound enters or exits her world—a sweep of bristle against wood, some transitory trace of life that has nothing to do with her.
She and her people are in cells lined along a corridor in the deepest reaches of the convent. On occasion the mentally disturbed have been kept here, tended to and made safe by walls so thick they are more than an arm’s length. These people, however, are all one family: a mother; an adult son; four older daughters; and this one, who has spent nearly half her life in here.
That was all the information the Dominican Brothers shared with me the day I started. Except that I must not attempt to speak to the girl or her family through their doors. The Brothers made me swear this before I swept even one stone.
In the language I share with jailer and jailed, my name is Bienvenida, though my Nahuatl name is different. By the Brothers’ reckoning, it has been 1,562 years since the death of God. (Continue Reading…)