The Sisters of The Good Samaritan - Protection of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults
August 2014

The memory keeper’s lament

With her “memory keeper” as guide, Good Samaritan Sister Marie Casamento, takes us on a journey to Auschwitz, to Gaza, to Hiroshima, to My Lai, on the high seas, and to the sunflower fields of Torez.

BY Marie Casamento SGS

Each day at four she rises to make her way
through the past, in the present, to the beyond.
Shuffling in and out of the rising morning mist,
this wise weather-worn woman,
this keeper of memories,
takes her corner seat, waiting for a tiny shard of light
to pierce the darkness,
to separate night and day,
north and south,
east and west,
land and sea,
your land and mine.
Wrapping shawl tightly, securing her ancient frame
against the shudders that wrack her psyche more than her body,
she begins her journey of remembering…
Fingering prayer beads of reflection.

First Station: Auschwitz

The cavalcade of cattle trains shunt forth
on a journey to where?
Somewhere, nowhere!
Who in their darkest most terrifying nightmare
could dare to imagine where?
The shudders begin to wrack her very psyche.
In the darkness, cramped,
her sisters, her brothers,
her mother, her father, her children
sit, stand,
terrified together in the oblivion that comes at journey’s end.
Her breath barely audible, her mantra begins,
hanging in the cold still air between past and present:

That it… that it…
may never, may never, ever, ever happen again…
Walk, oh please walk on our side!
Who?
You;
you who have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to perceive,
will you too walk by on the other side?

Second Station: Gaza

Swaddled now, her thread-bare shawl
completely wraps her frail body, covering her head,
shrouding her eyes against the terror, her intuition tells her must come.
Three boys frolic, run, run
chasing each other from sand to sea
free but not free.
Exploded, imploded, detonators of destruction
strike them down on a piece of land
they thought belonged to them all.
Her breath sucks in; her chest heaves.
Rachel cries, cries for all her children!

That it… that it…
may never, may never, ever, ever happen again…
Walk, oh please walk on our side!
Who?
you;
you who have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to perceive,
will you too walk by on the other side?

Third Station: Hiroshima

Gazing once more far into the indigo horizon,
shawl flung loose around her shoulders
she, this wise sage waits upon the dawn.

Night sky pierced by a million stars,
watches vigilantly over those who sleep peacefully
on their tatami mats dreaming,
dreaming festivals of cherry blossoms.
In the mid afternoon while small children nap,
suddenly a light brighter than all sun, moon and stars put together,
mushrooms its way above the land,
scorching, burning, searing, blearing all
in radiated death…
In the darkness she cringes,
her wizened shrivelled shroud-coverlet
coffins her in the deaths of these her people.

That it… that it…
may never, may never, ever, ever happen again…
Walk, oh please walk on our side!
Who?
you;
you who have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to perceive,
will you too walk by on the other side?

Fourth Station: My Lai

Villagers, women, girls, old men and young boys,
under a blue sky over the paddy fields of My Lai,
they crouch bent double, if only to sow sufficient rice for even one day.
With stealth the soldiers creep under the sign of stars and stripes,
unheeding of any Geneva Convention;
artillery at the ready and in an instant no one even left
to tell the tale of that dread-filled day.
Her tears mingle with the soil beneath her feet as her shawl muffles
her endless sobs.

That it… that it…
may never, may never, ever, ever happen again…
Walk, oh please walk on our side!
Who?
You;
you who have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to perceive,
will you too walk by on the other side?

Fifth Station: On the High Seas

Twenty-eight days on the open seas,
encased below deck of a custom boat.
Going somewhere, nowhere, anywhere but there…
Outside of any United Nations convention,
it is the decision doctored under the mandate
the Australian people gave the government.
Who?
You?
Me?
Not me!

That it… that it…
may never, may never, ever, ever happen again…
Walk, oh please walk on our side!
Who?
you;
you who have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to perceive,
will you too walk by on the other side?

Sixth station: The Sunflower Fields of Torez

From the very heavens they fell,
among fields of wheat and sunflowers.
In innocence they lay
amid a disaster unutterable, unforgettable, far beyond any words.

A black and white stuffed toy lies face skyward,
its monkey eyes searching for the child who loved it into life.
Even the sunflowers bow their heads in shame.
On the other side the rebels pass by,
guns, rifles, loaded;
grenades at the ready for an imagined threat that lies impotent in death.

Slowly, imperceptibly
with the dawning of insight they,
the peoples of the world cross over to the other side.
Laying wreaths, mourning, grieving, claiming moments
of lament, enabling them now
to take their seats and wait for the shard of light to pierce the darkness
of a new dawn rising.

Together now, fingers fumble beads,
and parched lips
mumble mantras.
Hand in hand with the ancient keeper of memories
they chant

That it… that it…
may never ever, ever happen again.
We the women of the world cry out.

We will… we will walk on your side.
We the women of the world,
young and old, resilient and determined,
fettered and free;
we whose eyes see, ears hear, hearts perceive.
On your side we walk!

Marie Casamento

Good Samaritan Sister Marie Casamento has ministered as a teacher, principal and art psychotherapist. Today, as in the past, she endeavours to live the maxim “to attend with a listening heart”. As a resident of Wivenhoe Village, near Camden in NSW, her aim is to be neighbour to all she meets. She enjoys drawing, writing and observing nature.

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