A Dry White Season (for some…) Advent, day 11


It is a dry white season 
dark leaves don’t last, their brief lives dry out 
and with a broken heart they 
dive down gently headed for the earth 
not even bleeding. 
it is a dry white season brother, only the trees know the pain as they still stand erect 
dry like steel, their branches dry like wire, 
indeed, it is a dry white season but seasons come to pass 

by Mongane Wally Serote 

 

I first read this poem in college when we were reading the book by Brink, which shares the title. It is in the forward. It is a protest poem out of South Africa, written during apartheid. I love it as an advent poem because of how it acknowledges the season, the pain that life can go through, but ends in a note of hope at the end: but seasons come to pass. Wherever that paperback is these days (I’m sure I sold it back, desperate for the 20 cents I would earn in the trade-in) I’m sure those words are underlined: Seasons come to pass.

This poem won’t function in the same way for anyone who happens to be reading on the West Coast, where Advent is seldom white or dry. But then, those are just the meanings of the words for me and from where I am; certainly, in the context of South Africa during the ‘70s, “white” and “dark” were metaphors for people. This poem speaks of oppression. Heard in that way, it would have been a poem the early church would have found resonance with. Those who were alive at the same time as Jesus would have heard their lives spoken in this poem too. It is a poem that loses a large part of its meaning when read by people of privilege. I am not sure what to do with that beyond acknowledging it, and recognizing that this difference between privilege and oppression continues to speak to why we need an incarnating God.

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