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Mary M. Ramsay

Honorable Mention 2006 Novice Christian Poetry Contest $50

I am a native Hoosier. I work at Indiana University Foundation (Bloomington) and in 2003 became a part-time student at the university as well. I enjoy mothering the other undergrads who are about the same age as the younger of my two daughters.

Besides being a wife, mother, and a young grandmother, I am a uniquely blessed daughter. At an early age I was separated from my natural dad following my parents' divorce. The distance in miles and relationship left us benignly estranged. We never overcame that. However, when I was a thirty-something, God crossed the unlikely paths of this small town Midwesterner and an elder man from southern India. Through a series of events I eventually became his informally adopted daughter. We are both blessed by this precious bond. Although we live on opposite sides of the world, God has provided us with a few special visits including one which prompted my poem, "The Blessing."

The Blessing

“No one has ever done this for me before,”
he murmurs, watching me at the sink.
My thought flows kindred—
I have never done this for anyone before,
but this act pours willingly
like water tumbling when I turn
the tap to fill the silver-colored basin.
Sit here, my Appa, before tomorrow,
your 8:00 am flight, before too soon a goodbye.
A patch of late afternoon sunshine slants
through the open screen door.
In waking dreams I’ve done this before—
knelt at my adopted father’s feet
as if a native daughter of his India.
I cuff his trousers, about mid-calf,
enough to keep them out of the water.
My hand slips around his heel,
draws it over the bowl’s rim to be bathed
(there’s room for only one foot at a time;
I’ll wash the other next)
Water swirls between my fingers.
My palms scoop lukewarm splashes over his ankle.
I move a hand slowly under his arch—
with the other rub across the wide top.
Take my time.
Sense the calm press of water.
Remember the warmth.
Make memory out of the tapered shape
from toe to heel of his brown-skinned foot.
The teapot squeals from the stove.
I ignore its call to steep the pot of Darjeeling
until Appa insists I heed its whistle.
I leap up, switch off the flame,
breathless, kneel silent on the worn carpet
and reach back into the silvery basin,
centered on this task of honoring the father.
Except for that careless teapot,
my eyes have not strayed upward.
Unexpected his fingers comb into my hair
until his long lean hand rests heavily,
covering the top of my head.
His voice follows, thick as Samuel’s oil
with accents of his Eastern understanding,
“Dear Lord, Bless my child…”

Copyright 2006 Mary M. Ramsay