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Face in a Night Shelter

She sat still as a rock,
While the noise and bustle of the room
Foamed and broke around her.
The real stillness was in her face,
Carved black ebony, beautiful;
Not just still, not just impassive
Frozen, stone.
We had tossed tentative smiles at her,
Middle class bridge makers
And they broke against that stone.
I thought of the mobility of faces and the words we use:
Crumbling into tears;
Breaking into laughter;
Crinkling into smiles;
And saw again that black, stone face
And thought of Novocain
Face frozen against pain,
Unnatural, rocklike, uncomfortable
But not hurting.
And I knew her fear of the end of numbness;
The agony of memory probing into nerves;
Remembering being a street person
Moved and moved and moved again,
Garbage before authority's broom.
Bone weary - without a corner or step or seat,
Wanting to stay, to stop, to sleep.
Remembering being prey,
To those who had been made animals;
The rapes, the beatings,
The pain and pain and pain;
Unthinkables, the un-remarkables,
Now even the crinkle of a smile
Would crack the frozen numbness
And everything, all of life,
Would hurt, like hell.

Fr. Paul Byrne OMI


 • Links to other Catholic Youth Ministry programs.

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 • Rebeccas Community Youth Ministry Programs.


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Rebeccas Community

In Christ's love we strive to:
Accept their individuality,
Believe in their worth,
Hope for their future, and
Love them where they are.