The following note was sent to us via Asa Plinch, who penned this very apt poetic exploration of the devotional tradition surrounding La Santa Muerte after hearing Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut speak on the Interfaith Voices program:

As I listened to your interview on NPR, I scribbled down some notes. I have reconfigured them here in the form of an ode, or perhaps a prayer.

~ Asa Plinch

Santisima Muerte de la Arbor

Santa Muerte

You give aid, you give comfort to the unfortunate poor,
you are there as well for the wealthy.
You give hope to the sick, you heal the infirm
as sure as you strengthen the healthy.

Señores with means, señoritas from the barrio
—all gather each month in prayer.
We offer our rosary, we make supplication
that you lead us from our despair.

Who are you, Señora, are you truly a Saint?
Why does the Church condemn you?
The Bishops abhor you, the deacons deplore you—
why, then do so many commend you?

You are righteous to all, as pure as a priest,
but there are so many who think it odd
that a woman might stand so low in the Church,
but second only to God.

I search through my humble Botanica in vein.
I cannot understand why you hide.
I see when you come you are clothed in darkness,
I see you are dressed as a bride.

A priestess, a reaperess, the Keeper of Justice,
—yet a patroness of thieves and of thugs?
Why do you hesitate to clear our streets,
of the narcos, the cartels . . . the drugs?

You are help for the helpless, love for the loveless,
—but what are you to the criminal?
Though they pray as well for your watchful eye,
—we pray your assistance is minimal.

You promise us justice and the rule of law
with your lighted candle of green.
May the seeds of your justice grow us a land
that is lush and safe and serene.

You promise us vengeance, —cold retribution
with your flickering candle of black.
May those you dispose remain in repose;
—may the vanquished never come back.

Though your eyes may not see the depth of our plight,
you are not so uncaring and blithe.
O, wield your great and terrible power:
Clean this land with your scythe!

And when you untangle our terrible burden
and remove these manacles of strife,
may you add a few grains of the sands of time
to the hourglass of my life.

O Santa Muerte, at my last grain of sand
—this I ask of you solely:
That my end may come imbued with peace,
my death untainted and holy.


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