When Poetry Converts to Prayer

One thing we can all agree with . . . poets are observers. Of people, patterns, and paradox. Of emotion,  enigmas, and ethos. In silence, sleep, and seclusion we ruminate and reflect. We roll around in the spring pansies and willow boughs and write their joy. In winter, we examine snowflake designs and compose similes. On the street, we trade sighs with strangers, mirroring life’s struggles, and we sculpt  slant rhymes to save for a sonnet or cinquain.

Our hearts are often saturated with emotion. Our minds are like Spirographs. This sometimes makes it difficult to honor our craft. We feel what belongs to others. It’s impossible not to. Is this intuition? Or instinct? Empathy? Insight?

William Wordsworth said,

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”


For me, digging into this avalanche of emotion can make it difficult to unearth the tranquility necessary to whittle a poem with artistry and skill. Even in seclusion my mind often races. I struggle to burrow through my mind’s Spirographed agitation (inspiration?) to expose versed thoughts.

When this happens, I turn my rough-hewn poetic thoughts  into prayers.

My mother is slowly dying of Alzheimer’s.  Sometimes she doesn’t know me. One thing she does know, however, is that something is not right. She just  doesn’t know what.

Yesterday she asked me to pray for her.

Today she prayed to die.

I need to do something with the overflow of emotion in my heart. I cannot write a poem to express the powerful sorrow and pain I feel for her.  I cannot write of my grief. I am unable to dig through the sands of sentiment to even find a poem inside me.

So, I turned to prayer and other poets to do what I cannot.

C.S. Lewis writes of death after prayers. I find it comforting. Even in his despair and after his death, he has connected with me through his poetry and prayers. Isn’t that what poetry is supposed to do?  Isn’t this why we write it? This season of my life,  I’ll hold onto my faith and the poetry of others to express what’s hidden in my heart.

“After Prayers, Lie Cold” by C. S. Lewis

Arise my body, my small body, we have striven
Enough, and He is merciful; we are forgiven.
Arise small body, puppet-like and pale, and go,
White as the bed-clothes into bed, and cold as snow,
Undress with small, cold fingers and put out the light,
And be alone, hush’d mortal, in the sacred night,
-A meadow whipt flat with the rain, a cup
Emptied and clean, a garment washed and folded up,
Faded in colour, thinned almost to raggedness
By dirt and by the washing of that dirtiness.
Be not too quickly warm again. Lie cold; consent
To weariness’ and pardon’s watery element.
Drink up the bitter water, breathe the chilly death;
Soon enough comes the riot of our blood and breath.


Maybe tomorrow, after my prayers,  I’ll feel inspired to write my mom a poem.


The Shelterer

Day Nine

It is day nine of Poem-A Day-month and already I’m feeling the strain. Today’s prompt was to write a shelter poem.

Embed from Getty Images

                   The Shelterer

When what I believe about life ends
in questions Wise and Dined over,
Slept over with eyes open
like a violent flash upon my pupils,

When I run to the sting of death,
fearful of life, not to join but to observe
loss of daybreak and all its enchantments,

When I lavish pity on my restrictions
and loss of mine and ours and envious
lusts, I have not the courage to confess
that my longing exceeds my memory
of faithfulness or innocence.

*        *        *

There is a man who reclines his eyes
With passion aging upon his lips
He grieves with hope. What sin was
missing to gift him this that veils
such a worm as I? What shelter is
his home? When what I believe about
life ends in questions, I will set my
table with him and shelter my fears
behind his eyes.

How about you?

I applaud those who are able to write more than one poem each day. I don’t know how they do it. How are you doing with your poeming this month? Keeping up? Catching up? Keep poeming.




Of pleasure and of pain

Hey, that’s my line!

Poetic Bloomings challenged us to “steal” a line from another poet,from any previous prompt. I wrote two but am posting this one:

“Now high, now low, the harmony of pleasure and of pain
 Sweeps soulfully across the sea and land.” Janet Martin’s Villianelle June 27, 2012
(Thank you, Janet)

“Of pleasure and of pain”

The harmony of pleasure
 and of pain, sweeps soulfully
across the sea and the land.

The sea may rage and argue
against spring’s thundering
hand and I may ride the rain

like waves of war cutting across
meadowland and dwelling,
with a swelling fear inside

my breast—the pain of height,
the fear of depths too deep
 to see. I breathe numb, I stumble

dumb into the message from
one who walked these seas.
Tonight I sleep with my blind

voice, reciting pithy proverbs,
 the lore of folk, weak and fruit-
less. I need a strong hand to

stroke in the torrid thunder,
I need a voice to hush the gales,
to awaken my eyes to prayer

and the promises that sweep
 soulfully across the sea and
land, a guiding hand to ease

my shorn soul. Tomorrow I’ll
wake to that Voice on the
breeze, singing a simple prayer,

gently brushing love through
the wind in my hair.