Category Archives: Poetry

How Can Hope be Sewn so Late

This poem could be about mending clothes or it could be about our divided country, or our broken environment…so like fabric that has been torn.  I have a lot of concerns about the upcoming election and our environment.  I don’t feel as though I have the wisdom to “do” anything or much, and I wonder if we can afford to “go to bed”, or to let only the politicians find a solution?  What would happen if we each looked into our own “basket” and did a little mending?

______________________

Who will sit in stillness
When all the lights are dimmed?
Though tired, who will pick the needle up
And lay the fabric right
To patch or darn or mend?
   Who will say, “Do it now”?

My grandmother sat late at night
Silence all around.
Pulling threads with calloused fingers,
Adding her strength to fabric,
So clothes could still be worn.
   Who will say, “I will help”?

Who will stitch the patches now,
Where fabric’s weak and torn by rough duress?
Or seams that parted by weakened thread?
Who will stitch because of love
for person or the craft?
   Who will see the “us” in “them”?
   Who will say, “I forgive”?

If only the stitch was made
When fabric first was torn.
But now the basket’s full
And first tear forgotten how.
   Who will say, “Reconcile”?

We must pick up the thread and needle,
Not for stitching quilt or embroidery
Whose stitch is made for beauty.
With thread so thick with color
But made of thinnest wool.
   Who will say, “Bring the light”?

How can this repair be done
On fabric that has hardened?
We each must bring a light and
Sit in stillness,
With thick thread,
whose color has no arrogance or ego.
Or how can hope be sewn so late?

Who will say, “Do it now”?
   Who will say, “I will help”?
      Who will see the “us” in “them”?

Who will say, “I forgive”?
   Who will say, “Reconcile”?
      Who will say, “Bring the light”?

Lockdown

I was surprised
by the red-tailed hawk that landed in our yard,
the poison ivy on my legs,
the worry and stress,
the civil unrest.
So…painting the house
and mowing the yard,
gathering only with one friend
who was ill
and watched her worsen,
on the chairs in our yard
made by our son.
Feeding peanuts to squirrels
and seeds to birds,
watching the hummingbirds,
and knitting and knitting and knitting.
My husband went to hospital
the pressure in his veins too high,
watched my brother’s marriage dissolve,
then one brother-in-law sick with the virus died.
And we could not gather.
Raking loads of leaves and
and then we caught the virus but did not die.
Then one brother-in-law’s heart stopped.
And we could not gather.
Then cancer claimed my friend.
And we could not gather.
And I could not write.
Our mothers lived through this,
each loosing a son.
Our children marched on
and I’m amazed by them all.
And it began when a red-tailed hawk
landed in our yard and sat in solitude
on a chair that our son made.

Mary, My Older Sister

Mary, my older sister,
you risked the sacred silence,
And found an angel facing you.
Your brave “yes”, 
became a womb,
(a hidden basket among the reeds)
Holding child and promise,
For love and freedom’s sake.

Your “yes”, is water turned to wine.
Becomes a key for those held hostage,
A message of hope for those who grieve,
A hand to the poor and ill,
And still, a friend to strangers.

Those things pondered in your heart,
Of a child whose values included you,
Whose love embraced the earth,
The skies and every living thing.
Sweet Mary, your example for us all.
If there is no time in heaven,
Pray for me now, pray for us now,
for the need is great.

Pray for us now, 
And help us give our grandest, yes,
to set aside our fear
and give us vision for what may be.
As the messenger greets us now,
I sing your praise, and ask you,
Help us with our, yes.
Help me with my yes and amen.

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This poem comes from a number of places, mainly from my heart being disturbed by recent political events, an exercise in the book, Birthing the Holy, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.6, and a centering prayer time around M. Basil Pennington:

“In the silence, whether we listen to the creation around us,
The words of revelation, or the deepest stirrings of our own hearts,
We begin to perceive another voice,
One that is too often lost in the static of life.
It is no use saying: ‘Speak, Lord, your servant wants to hear,’
If we never risk the silence to listen.”

Many of my more traditional friends will enjoy this poem, while many of my evangelical friends will probably shake their heads and be concerned. But, I would ask all to examine what is going on inside themselves and if they have ever asked others to pray for them, or if they have reverenced Paul, or Peter? Why not Mary? Her ‘Yes’, was as grand as any.

Centering Prayer

“Praying with a sacred word disposes the one who prays to
the open depths within by drawing to stillness the
wandering mind that flits and skitters all over the place.”
Martin Laird

Dispose, let go, part with
the distraction.
So that
…my intention,
will govern or influence, 
…will be a gift.

Make this matter, this letting go,
be a habit, a tendency, 
be a disposition of sorts,
And…
…finding a word
decide the matter.
Set this aside, …and this, …and this.

Breathe the word.
Be willing and posed…
For presence sake,
…I begin where I now am,
To make this order what it needs to be.
A tendency, an inclination…
This first, this stilled self, this Presence, 
This word that gently brings me back to what is first.
Things let loose, set free, disposed of, 
so I can lean a different way.
Let my disposition be one of leaning toward,
Like a child,
Receiving the Gift.

Mary Herbert. February 2022

This poem comes from meditating on a paragraph written by Martin Laird.  There were two things I thought of as I wrote it.  First the word, “disposed” which has several meanings that fit so well together with some of the ideas within Centering Prayer, which was the second thing I was thinking of.

Centering prayer is a prayer practice, introduced and written about by Father Keating, which at its core is the desire for the presence of the Divine. It is a wordless prayer, yet uses a word to bring oneself gently back to the Presence when our thoughts drift. Father Thomas Keating has written several books on this practice so I won’t try to explain it further.

Pass the Peace

Two women, 
whose stories we do not know,
One sits at one side
Her mouth askew
From birth or accident,
Or maybe tumors left too long.
So good at sheltering
She is seldom seen.

     So who will see her?
Who will pass the peace to her?
For peace is what she needs.

The other,
Whose story we do not know
Sits on other end
Of this long and blackened pew.
Straight and tall
She looks ahead 
or looks down
  from unseen wall.
What troubles must she carry, 
To hide behind them all?

     Who will see her?
And who will pass the peace to her?
For peace is what she needs.

So who will sit between them
And see them as they are
And who will scale the walls
And see beyond the scars
To pass the peace between them
For peace is what they need.

…So as I seat myself between them
I wonder if I am seen?
My story known to me
I see the walls I’ve built
And know some scars are deep.
Who will pass the peace to me?
For peace is what I need.

There are other verses that could be written.  People whose stories we don’t know.  Who sit alone or sit with others, yet lonely. Or, the people who are beyond the walls of our churches and homes, who are sick and homebound or don’t attend a church, who don’t need our judgement but need peace.

Mary Herbert  April 2022

This poem comes from a picture painted by a participant in a Narrative Circle that I gather with.  She painted a picture of a recent experience that she had in church (and gave me permission to use it in this poem), which brought to mind the sermon I heard the Sunday before.  The sermon acknowledged the sign of peace as something more than a coffee hour greeting but an incarnational gift that we give and receive.