Jean-Charles Cazin (1840-1901)
Some background notes for those who may be unfamiliar with the story found in Genesis 16:1-16 and Genesis 21:1-21:
- Hagar was an Egyptian maid to Sarah, wife of Abraham, who had been promised a son through whom God would bless his descendants and the whole world.
- When it seemed Sarah could not bear the child promised by God, Abraham took Hagar as his concubine, and she bore a son, whom she named Ishmael.
- After Sarah finally did bear a son, whom she named Isaac, she insisted that Abraham dismiss Hagar and her son Ishmael, so there would be no competition for the prized inheritance.
- Hagar then found herself abandoned with her son in the scorching deserts of the Middle East.
I wail a song of sorrow, of a grief that
stretches far beyond the stillness of these
haunted, bitter sands; my tears, the only
water in this endless barrenness—not
enough to keep me and my son alive.
I moan a song of fear, alone,
abandoned in this emptiness;
terrors harsh beneath a bruising sun that
wilts my dream of a tomorrow for my boy
whose eyes stare out his question,
“why, my mother, why?”
I howl a song of anger—did I not do
everything just right? or almost right,
at least? obey the master? bow to my
lady’s pride? cook the meals and
clean the tents? only to be cast
aside like offal from a sacrifice?
where are you, God? your promises
right now mere dust I soon will spread
across the body of my son.
I chant a mantra of my empty faith, of
questions many as the stars I see in desert
night; the gods of Egypt youth eclipsed by
God of Sarah—a God I can no longer trust;
once spoke with me—I thought—to promise
greatness for my son; his only greatness now his
anguished moans of thirst and fear of
death which ghostly hovers in his breath.
A voice? another desert song nearby? my ears
now playing tricks of angel promise shushing fear?
my eyes deceiving me? mirage of water
whisper-calling me to taste its sheer reality?
Dare I dip my soul again in faith?
Dare I taste the flowing Presence yet again?
I hum a quiet, timid hope, as water spills onto
my son to quench the thirst stretched
tight across his chest; as tiny drops of trust
distil in me to quell some of my
anger, fear—not all, but just enough to take one
desert step and then another one to help me
learn this desert way; to take my son into
tomorrow all unknown; believe that he, that
we, will never be alone.