Strange and Stranger Within the Gate
By Hannah Main–van der Kamp• Ruth 2:6–8
The ease it was to pass through that gate
in spite of my heavy accent and our ragged clothes!
We carried no belongings.
The villagers tried not to stare.
They whispered about us
but they knew who we were.
Barley harvest was just coming in.
There was a good boss man.
I got part-time work.
The other workers shared their food.
It opened my drought-worn heart,
the kindness of these people.
Canadian poet Hannah Main–van der Kamp created "Strange and Stranger Within the Gate" in response to Ruth 2:6-8 and the theme of “strangers.”
6 And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab: 7 And she said, I pray you, let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves: so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house. 8 Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither go from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens:
Hannah Main–van der Kamp
Ostensibly, this prose poem is a monologue by the Biblical Ruth. A number of different verses could be used as markers e.g Ruth 1: 19, 2:10, 4:13. As I worked on it I was struck by the way in which Ephesians 3:6 (I was preparing a homily for Epiphany) resonates with Ruth’s story. I also refer to Exodus 20:8 for the generosity of the Sabbath day command. In addition I hope to evoke the Magnificat Luke 1:46. Ruth’s final words refer, unknowingly, to John 3:15.
A stranger and taking on new customs and beliefs, Ruth cannot know anything about the sacrifice of the Prince of heaven. The irony is both bitter and sweet. Ruth thus restates the un-readiness of God’s people at the time of the Judges to relinquish the notion of sacrifice though they used animals for the rituals. Yet, she is ready to give her heart and in so doing prefigures the Gospel on two counts: the self-giving of Jesus and the self-giving that is required of all of us.
I also hope that at the very opening of this poem the plight of refugees everywhere will instantly spring to readers’ minds.
Poet, editor, homilist and reviewer, Hannah Main – van der Kamp teaches reading and writing as spiritual practice. Her published work has appeared since the late sixties in a variety of places including religious, literary and environmental publications. She wrote the poetry reviews for BCBOOKWORLD for eight years. Her latest titles include ACCORDING TO LOON BAY, SLOW SUNDAY ON THE MALASPINA STRAIT and BRIGHT AT BLACK POINT. Her work was included in FORCE FIELD, a recent anthology of BC writers. She contributes to on-line publication including artwayeu.
Hannah’s interests include permaculture, meditation, birds, contemporary art and poetry. She is active in the Anglican parish of St David and St Paul in Powell River, B.C., Canada.