Pilgrim Poems

If not now, when?


Rose NilesMy untended garden
A poem about seeing oppression in and outside the church . . . and doing nothing

by Rose Niles

I stare
into my untended garden
with its morning-dappled
light barely whispering through the treetops—
this bower encapsulating my tiny haven
my church of light,
this freshly longed for
church in the world—
when my eye spies a single leaf
floating in air
a graceful unlikely thing
full of impossibilities,
slowly it twirls
disappearing on edge
tauntingly there again
as a stiff breeze shifts
the violent thread,
dancing like a hanging thing
jerked and held in death
in the back of
my untended garden;
it seems there is a giant sticky web
spun stealthily
to trap
those happy flitting passers by,
now I have seen it
from my pew by my window
in my pew on Sunday morning,
I know it exists out of my usual sight
I mount my pulpit from which I cry out:
do you see the web
way in the back
of my untended garden?
it is not my responsibility
I didn’t do it
I cry
yet I make no move
none at all
none at all
to set the captive

Baptized, reared, and ordained a ruling elder in the Bronx at the age of fourteen, Rose Niles has served the church as a teaching elder, pastor, and supporter of theological education. Rose is bi-racial, a daughter of immigrant parents, a mother of one phenomenal woman, and a lifelong pilgrim. Amazed, she finds herself in Houston, Texas, serving Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary on this leg of the pilgrim journey. You can read more of her poems here.