Once (Elena Huegel, Chile)
A poem from Elena Huegel
Two cups of tea, dissimilar,
on a table set with simple beauty.
a strainer to fish the leaves that tint
the hot water in the bottom of the cup
while waiting for boiling water to sputter forth from the kettle.
“Come in and share ‘once’ with me.
I have home-made, hand kneaded, leavened bread,
still warm from the clay oven.”
A dignified Mapuche* hostess invites me
when I visit her ruca* on the skirts of
the Villarrica Volcano.
Butter spread on the bread
melts and runs down my fingers.
I savor a feast more exquisite than the
delicacies on a king’s table.
I am huinca*, invader, foriegner, of the race that conquers.
And I am hungry.
Hungry for a smile.
Hungry for welcome.
Hungry for home.
I came into your house and you received me.
I came to your table and you fed me.
I came at tea time, and you served me.
And on lonely afternoons,
when I am far away from southern stars,
and longing squeezes out tears, the salts of memories,
and the cacophony of voices
selling, buying, demanding, pleading, insulting
compete to trap my attention
and deafen the song of my caged soul,
I close my eyes and jump the puddles
on the track that leads to Campo Alegre.*
In the rhythm of the drizzle I hear the singsong of your speech
inviting me and all who are hungry for peace in this land
to come to the table
to break bread, and
to drink a cup of tea.
Elena Huegel, a member of Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer, Los Fresnos, Texas, serves the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She is an environmental and Christian education specialist.
*”Once” is what afternoon tea is called in Chile.
*The Mapuche, “people of the earth” are one of the original peoples of Chile.
*”Ruca” is the mapuche word for dwelling or home. The ruca is usually a single room with a fire place in the middle. The roof has a vent over the fireplace for the smoke.
*”Campo Alegre” literally means “Happy Fields” in Spanish. It is the name of a Mapuche settlement in southern Chile at the base of the Villarrica Volcano.
*”Huinca” is a derogatory term in mapuche for the conquerors. It is similar to the word “thief.”