Agony in the Garden: Their Voices Suffocate Me

Agony in the Garden: Their Voices Suffocate Me April 19, 2019



I remember a few years ago, my mom talking about the priest sex abuse in our diocese. She said she almost felt there were some kind of dark presence that had long ago taken root in our town and refused to loose its hold. With the bodies of the flood victims in the ground and the sexual assault victims still living, it wasn’t hard to imagine. It felt freeing to escape it eventually, to leave memories of priest abuse and my father’s abuse there to rot together, twisted into the mountains and trees.


I fled this country last fall, hoping to escape the voices.

Trying to flee the blood of those we killed
Finding a place where the blood of slaves doesn’t scream for justice.

A college or industry where women weren’t stifled and silenced despite their rape, assault. Where men who stalked them are lauded and protected.

Where the women are slut shamed even where they are virgin prudes.

I keep seeking a land where immigrants aren’t shoved into cages, children not torn from mothers, fathers not shipped off to war.


I went to Spain and found kindness and history. But I didn’t escape the pain.

The voices were also there, in that land where a vicious civil war was fought, where one side slaughtered women and queer folks and the other slaughtered priests and old ladies in the pews.

Where rape is still laughed at because people think it doesn’t happen.

Where wars were fought, crusades between Christian and muslim.

Where war tore apart families and tore the flesh from the bones of the poor.

Where mental illness is rare, and thus deeply misunderstood and often demeaned.


Then I flew to Scotland, a land full of fairies and ghosts. In much of Edinburgh you can’t walk anywhere in the city without stepping on the corpses of prostitutes and plague victims, men and women killed for witchcraft, pickpockets and thieves and serial killers, and the graves are at least three corpses deep.

I had a thought when I fled to come home (for fleeing a home teaches you to love it, I found). My thought on the bus from Zaragoza to Barcelona was self righteous and smug: that I could never live in the South, in the Carolinas, above the bodies of the slaves, of the black men lynched for looking at a white woman wrong.

See, Faulkner was right, and their blood seeps through the earth of this land and shrieks for justice.


But how dare I be smug? Pennsylvania was built on the backs of eastern European immigrants who died working endlessly in the mines, where child brides were shipped across the sea to marry 30 year old widowers, until the mines widowed them at 14.


Is anywhere free of their voices, where the dirt isn’t full of souls reaching out for revenge, trees haunted, white person homes built on the defiled sacred grounds of the natives massacred under our feet?

And where can I live in this country I loathe and love where the ancestors of the indigenous people don’t sit in the dirt plotting my death for the violence my ancestors inflicted on their children?

Where can I escape them, the voices of the victims, the violence and pain and death that grips this land like a vice?

Not an acre is this beautiful earth is innocent.



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