Category Archives: Poetry

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.

My Life Before the Face of God

To place 
My life before the face of God…
Not behind or hiding.
And without mask or covering,
I am 
  Before the penetrating look 
    of this Sacred Presence.
Let me sink down into…
As though to stay planted,
In this garden dust,
Before this Face.
Where watched 
And loved,
I place my dreams,
As though they were seeds.
I place my words and voice,
The things I’ve said, and should have said.
I place my identity and my dignity, 
My humility and my pride,
My hopes
And my laments,
My wounds, and scars,
And places still whole.
My faith, my unbelief and doubt,
My sin and regrets…
Like weeds,
   Laid bare in dust before this Face.
And with greatest trust, I place
Those I love
And things I like,
Talents 
   and the time I’m left, 
and
As I look up, eye to Eye, I plant it all
    Before this Face…
…This Face of Love.

Mar Herbert. February 2022

This poem comes from a  meditation on a paragraph written by Madeline Delbrêl.  In, We, the Ordinary People of the Streets she writes .  

“To place our lives before the face of God,
to surrender our lives to the movements of God,
is to roam free in a space in which we have been given…
solitude…”

Untitled

I shall write. Feeling the pen upon the paper.
And listening to the quiet hope of
the unspoken word.

by Tim Herbert

When my son shared this poem with me, something inside me shifted. Toward hope, toward Spring. I guess a person doesn’t need a lot of words to inspire hope.

Four Inches

Notice
How people gather in doorways
-on thresholds.
Their deepest conversations
in four inches of space?
Between one coming
and one going?
Four inches of intimacy, 
four inches of knowing.

We see the people
who linger 
in this space…
that is neither here nor there.
Holding onto a door that is open,
an opening with freedom to speak.
A threshold with invitation
to be heard and to move forward
…through four inches of intimacy.
A threshold to be gained.

Let us bless this common space
Made sacred by the stories.
Let us bless the greetings and the leavings
Made holy by the long good-byes. 
Let us bless this open door
With its quiet words and  listening.

This poem began in church with a very unholy attitude.  Honestly it was the congestion I noticed first and inside I began to complain and rail against this problem.  Then I noticed it happening when I visited others, lingering as I got ready to leave, finding myself doing what I had complained about.  Now it is a holy place and time.  An invitation to another visit maybe in a wider place.