Poetry: How do words become flesh?

How do you pray?

Do you pray with hands folded?

Do you air out your words on the line? Do you clip them down one by one, and then let them dance in the breeze until they smell fresher, lighter?

Do you tell yourself stories of meaning and mystery? Do you let the metaphors dance in the shadows of your bedroom while you remember your past and invent your fate?

Do you pray in the silence? Do you pray with song? Do you pray on the busy streets?

Do you slice up your words and put them into a pot to simmer like stew until they become a nourishment thicker than alphabet soup?

Do you go through doors to places that are wordless, spaces where the only sound heard is the buzz of light warming you? Do you let words illumine you?

Do you pick up your pen and draw circles in your journal? Do you then color those circles in with lines and dreams, a blend of babbles and breath? Do you ask Spirit to help you to make sense of what comes from your imagination, from the cavern of your soul? Do you ask the Spirit to help you make sense of anything?

How do you pray?

Do you pray with poetry or psalms? Do you pray in your sleep? Do you pray under water?

Do you let the word take the shape of your fleshy, wrinkled, brain?

Do words tick in the territory of your heart? Are they fleshy like moving muscle, tightening and expanding and allowing for the flow of living blood?

Do you allow your womb to expand, for the Spirit to write beauty and truth through you?

Do you?

 

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Adapted for 2019 Women’s Christmas at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center. An essay version of this poem first appeared on the Image blog Good Letters in December 2018 and was inspired in part by How Do You Write? by Richard Chess

Black cloth

Red broth, steaming soup, vegetables

just picked, now my lunch; I slurp life in.

Phone rings

Sister Laura on the line, “Sister Rita is dying.

I’ll put the phone to her ear. Say what you’d

like. She

can’t talk, won’t respond. Say your good-bye.”

A pause. My lungs expand, mind races, I search

my heart

for words just-right. I mutter, “Thank you,”

“I love you,” “Pray for me,” “Enjoy freedom,”

“Good bye.”

She moans acceptance. The words echo—

feel blank, all seems hollow—

sacred.

Red broth, steaming soup, life once fresh

now my lunch; hot liquid tasted,

consumed.

Minutes later I hem black cloth for prayer,

black cloth for teens needing gifts from God—

life long.

Photo credit: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/379193198
Photo credit: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/379193198

Dedicated to Sister Rita Rathburn, FSPA, who was a sister, friend, and coach for me in the craft of writing. She died on Monday. May she rest in peace. 

ash

this day

in lines

across earth

penitents unite

we shall

 

 

let’s

somberly remember

nothingness

and say yes

onward, into

we shall

 

 
neighbors needing

giving greatly

fasting freely

praying constantly

we shall

 

 
know black filth

smeared crosses

barring

repent, return

Jesus beckons

go

 

 

 

 

hallow hope

Bored with the rosary beads

and anxiety of agendas

I gaze up from the corner chapel in my

9th floor imaginary tree house home.

My blurred vision moves from the cross to the obnoxious glow of the golden arches and

hallows the hope

that once was fire

warming my heart over the violent city.

Yet, I still seek to

drop

prayers of hope, faith, love, healing

like ironic bombs and blast the gang violence and super BOGO sales into garden compost piles.

 

I was in jail yesterday scammed with truth that sent seizures of confusion down my spine.

 

Prayer transforms into an awkward move:

tripping over my own feet- because celibacy is sometimes solo- I bruise as I dance

through the constant clashing hymn

“trust in the Lord with all your heart” and “give glory to God.”

I listen and I remember

the song offered harmony and grace before.

Today it hurts my ears.

 

The pacifist dreams are a war within.

 

I sob over (non-organic) coffee-stained non-profit grants

and realize the stench of hope is stale

because I am learning

the truth transpires and collides with the desire

to believe, bless, and be

loving presence around a cluttered holy supper table carved with “never simple, never clear.”

I yelp; my flesh bubbles, burned by the flame which jumped out of

the Sacred Heart pillar prayer candle.

As I cringe with “ew,” my spirit mysteriously stills and hears a hopeful Spirit whisper:

my body hurts.

 

I was in Kindergarten yesterday and I climbed over fences and sung happy made-up songs.

 

Laughing, I turn up the volume on the alleluia chorus

of “be not afraid” and “I am with you”

and let the hallow, hurting hope guide me back home to “Here I AM.”

 

"city cracking nature" by Sister Julia Walsh, FSPA