Inside the Broken Heart of God

By Johari Jabir

1 year – Ukrainian Resistance
20 years – U.S. Invasion in Iraq

The old lady has sat in her little rocking chair since the first bomb hit her village
day after day she sits in her tiny chair
facing the window
watching the morning sun burn the clouds of war
an apparition in the shape of a black angel appears every morning

rickety tickety
she rocks back and forth, humming for God’s mercy
furiously knitting socks for the soldiers
the little rocking chair too, begs for mercy

the little rocking chair is a family heirloom
made by her great-great grandfather
A carpenter who lost his family when the Nazis invaded Warsaw in 1939
the chair has missing teeth in its back
like the sagging sorrow of the old lady’s mouth

A teenage boy who lived down the street
visited her before he left to join the resistance
boiling fresh vegetables and potatoes from her garden,
she added beef shank to make him borscht.

The old lady wrapped 3 pairs of socks in a brown sack
made especially for him with her thickest wool
and baked him her best loaf of bread
She knew his mother
the old lady believes his mother is the black angel who visits her at dawn

As the young man was leaving, he kissed her on the forehead
“I’ll see you when I get back,” he said
“I know you will,” the old lady murmured, clenching the few teeth she had left
She knew war had only two possibilities: wealth for the rich and death for the

she opened the door, he left
and instantly the flame of her small oven was extinguished
she wept and fell to the cold hard floor
her knee bones made a crackling sound/broken glass on cement

her face down to the floor in the small puddle of grief she had made
the black angel appeared
she smiled at the old lady
blessed are you who mourn
your tears fill the river of god’s heart

Johari Jabir (right) is an artist, scholar, and contemplative. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Johari is director of music at St. George & St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Chicago, IL, and he teaches in the department of Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. His first book, Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Gospel Army of the Civil War (Ohio State University Press, 2017), is a cultural history of the nation’s first Black regiment, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.

2 thoughts on “Inside the Broken Heart of God

  1. Johari, this is so powerful–thank you. It reduced me to a puddle this morning, in a good way. It is also so musical, as your writing always is. Just really beautiful.

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