Elva’s Poem

Laura I. Rendón

September 2020

It seems
That we were just on the phone
Before suddenly you were gone.
On our daily talks
Somehow I could see your face
Your smile
Sense your childlike happiness
I can’t bear to erase your number from my phone.

I wish I had told you more often
That you are the reason
I am who I am today.
You didn’t finish high school
You became the daycare our mother
Could not afford
You fed our younger sister and me
Took our little hands
As you walked us to school
You brought us balloons and popcorn
On Friday nights
Made us smile and be hopeful
For a moment erase our poverty
I can’t bear to erase your number from my phone.

Quien va cuidar a Elva, hija?
Our mother said to me
Just days before she transitioned.
I assured her I would.
I pray I did enough.
I was with you
As you tried to overcome the traumas
Of a father’s abandonment
As you almost left us twice before
As you survived COVID
In a virus-ridden nursing home
I can’t bear to erase your number from my phone.

Somehow we never really did this
In our childhood days
Never really said three simple words
I became determined to tell you
When mom passed away.
They became the words
Which now ended all of our calls.
The last words I said to you
Were not hesitantly uttered
Very comfortably I simply said
I love you.
I will never erase your number from my phone.

Humans Are Not Horses

Laura I Rendón

March 2020

It is said that when horses break their legs
They are shot to put them
Out of their misery.
A murderous act of compassion
Featured in the film,
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

In the context of a pandemic
Appear the stark complexities
Related to life and death.
But making wise, moral decisions
Has not been emphasized
In our educational experiences.
And we’ve largely ignored
Atrocities in distant lands.
Being on autopilot is no longer
An option.
We never thought that
A Pope would recite a
Prayer in solitude before an empty
St Peter’s Square for
An invisible world audience
Desperately trying to hold on to life itself.
We never imagined that we would
Fear for our life
Every day.

In case you haven’t noticed
A disturbing life or death belief system
Is trying to normalize itself in our consciousness.
The unimaginable is getting perilously close to the
Standardization of a new reality.
Health-care workers being told it’s OK to
Use diapers and bandanas as facemasks
And trash bags for gowns.
Life-saving ventilators in alarming short supply.
Preachers who once proclaimed the
Sanctity of life now proposing
That the elderly should sacrifice
Their lives to save the nation’s economy.
Immigrants and asylum seekers
Crammed in detention centers being
Left as easy prey to a virus
That knows no boundaries.
People now dying
As if we had a plane crash every day.
Many asking:
How did we get to this place?

Even horses get compassion.
But then again, can’t we see that
Humans are not horses?


Laura Rendón

The author notes that the story of the Māori elder appears in:
Andreotti, V., Ahenakew, C., Cooper, G. (2011). Towards global citizenship education ‘otherwise’. In V. de Oliveira Andreotti & L. de Souza (Eds.) Postcolonial Perspectives on Global Citizenship Education (pp. 221-238). New York: Routledge.

In the Aztec world
Two contradictory concepts
Are really not opposed
They dance together to reveal
A greater reality.

I and You impart Togetherness
Sky and Earth divulge World
Flowers and Songs reveal Beauty
This is the poetry of paradox.

We must now return
To embracing the
Sage guidance of our ancestors.
To awaken our third eye
To bathe in spaciousness
To engage in the resolution of polarities.

For too long
We have embraced the myth
of binary thinking.
We have been forced to choose
Between this or that
Between one option or another.

But the liberated mind
And the open heart know
That resolving life challenges
Call for more than
Having only
One or two options
Grey areas offer multiple possibilities.

The wisdom of the ages
Lies in fascinating subtleties
Our colonized minds overlook.
Contradictions are
Based on relationships.

Paradox asks that we enter
The playing field of transformation
Where knowledge is limitless
Where everything can be both
True and untrue
Where things can exist separately,
Yet remain connected and related
Where we can liberate our minds
From the myth of dualism.

A friend related a Māori elder’s story,
And the story’s lessons
Live in my heart.
The grandmother was asked:
Do you believe in many Gods or just one God?
She replied that there was only one God.
A probing question followed.
But aren’t there other Māori Gods?
Her liberated mind offered
The perfect response:
Those other Gods exist as well.

The Gifts of 2020

Laura I Rendón

January 2021

It is often said
That hindsight is 20/20
A retrospective for Year 2020
Is in order.
On a journey toward wisdom
One inevitably learns a paradoxical truth:
It is when we experience
The most suffering, the most angst
That our greatest life lessons emerge.

Perhaps it was a higher power that
Selected our generation to merit
A world-wide emergency
Of epic proportions.
To be placed squarely in an
Oppositional liminal space
Where warriors meet terror
Where hope meets despair
Where joy meets sorrow.
We became the chosen people
To receive the gifts
Borne of trauma.

The gift of inter-relatedness
My survival is related to your well-being.
The gift of relationships
Our closeness can remain strong
Even with separation.

The gift of a sorrowful broken heart.
Our hearts breaking open
To receive the truth of our existence
And the infinite possibilities that lie before us.

The gift of mercy
Witnessing the suffering and giving of ourselves
With pure tenderness and compassion.
The gift of courage
We are on the precipice
Of creating a new, bold reality.

The gift of the Christmas star
Bringing Jupiter and Saturn together
For the first time in 800 years
Hope illuminating the sky.

I want to believe
That these magical gifts
Were sent by our ancestors
Their illuminative ways of knowing
Unveiled for us to see
With 20/20 acuity
Just one more time.

On the remote island of Mer
Shooting stars are said to carry
The deceased to a distant life.
Burning with fire
These souls initiate a journey
To a new life.

In 2020 our souls were set ablaze
We were given cherished gifts
To reimagine our collective existence
To heal our personal and collective wounds
To establish a powerful foundation
For those coming behind us.

Now we are poised
To access our starseed essence
Gifted with the journey
To expand the parameters
Of our newly-found enlightenment.

What we do with these gifts
Will be our homage of the heart
For those no longer with us
Whose memory is enshrined
In over 400,000 lights
On a solemn evening that initiates a new decade
And that opens a beginning unlike any other.

Realm Shift

Laura I Rendón

March 2020

And so it is that
Now we are being forced to do
What we could not imagine doing before.
Abruptly, almost without warning, and with our old, outworn practices and belief systems
We find ourselves entering a total shift of realms.

It is time to evoke the wisdom of our ancestors, philosophers and sage prophets.
Anzaldúa, she would say we are now living
In Nepantla, in liminality, straddling
The old and new normal.
Atwood would admonish:
The truth is not irrelevant.
Indigenous people would remind us
That the universe is an inseparable whole.
Mama, she would say
Ten mucho cuidado mija. No salgas.
All precious wisdom.

The virus, the fear, the uncertainty
The chilling tales of
Other nations have migrated to us.
An unfamiliar strangeness has taken over our bodies.
Every day begins to feel like a week,
Even a month, some say.

Yes, there is the uninvited darkness
That has crept into our lives.
But Jung would remind us that
The other side of darkness is light.
Yes, the virus kills and fear creates chaos.
But it is at precisely these moments
Of extreme crisis that our human spirit
Presents itself in uniquely soft, endearing ways.

Light, hope, community, sacredness.
It’s in the balconies of Italy and Spain that
Burst with song.
It’s in the women who are
Sewing homemade facemasks for doctors.
In the two-minute prayer
Requesting a miracle
Recited at the same time
Across the world.
In the teachers who take
To their cars to drive in neighborhoods
So that kids can see they are still there
For them.
In a little girl’s social distancing birthday
With friends driving cars by her house
With signs and banners.
In the parents who choose to eat dinner
Every night in the hallway
Close to their quarantined daughter.
In the people who set up Christmas lights
And cook Thanksgiving dinner in March.
In the people volunteering
To bring groceries and medicine
To those in need.
In the therapy dogs who go
To comfort senior citizens outside their windows.
In ordinary people who read children’s stories online.
In virtual watch parties and happy hours with friends.
In the first responders who risk their lives to save others.
In priests who walk the streets of Laredo
To offer comfort and blessings.

Let us remember that darkness
Can bring forth our finest hour.
In this realm shift
We come to know
That a new reality is in store for us
A reordered promised land,
As Luther King would call it.
Now we learn that the I is about the We.

And so it is that
We find ourselves at the verge
Of spaciousness—expanded possibilities.
Those who are coming behind us
Will surely ask the questions of the heart.
How did we cope?
What did we not get right?
What did we learn?
Is it really true that we can:
Isolate in our togetherness?
Socially distance to save our relationships?
Work in a context of uncertainty, confusion and fear
And yet find a sense of stability?
Break open from our rigidity
To find a new foundation for humanity?

I have hope that
We can, as Rilke suggests,
Live the questions now as we stumble
Into the vast territory of answers that
Defy a choice between one or two options.

I have hope that in this
Realm shift we will journey to re-connect
With things that really matter--
Our humanity, our communities, our loved ones,
Our sense of purpose in this life to find
Our perfect centeredness in a shifting reality.