Category Archives: Poetry

Sacraments: Letting Go and Waiting

Pruned branches of tree with one sprig of new life

Another week begins.

Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.

Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.

Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.

We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”

Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.

She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. 
First she surrendered her green, 
then the orange, yellow, and red 
finally she let go of her own brown. 
Shedding her last leaf 
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare. 
Leaning against the winter sky, 
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf, 
she watched it journey to the ground. 
She stood in silence 
wearing the colors of emptiness, 
her branches wondering, 
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, 
the sacrament of waiting began. 
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness. 
Clothing her with silhouettes 
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that 
her vulnerability, 
her dependence and need, 
her emptiness, her readiness to receive, 
were giving her a new kind of Beauty. 
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence, 
and celebrated together 
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

The power of simple gifts

I attended the CanWrite! conference in Vancouver, BC on the weekend.

During the open mic session on Friday night, Jean Kay of Poetry to Inspire told a story that showed how simple gifts can ripple out and multiply in ways we never anticipate.

Every morning as part of a meditation practice, Jean writes a poem. She has published her poems in books, she writes poems for special occasions, and she sells printed copies of special prayers, like this “Prayer of Thanks.”

A prayer card with a prayer by the title of "Prayer of Thanks" by Jean Kay

Recently Jean was selling her work from a booth at a promotional event. A woman picked up a “Prayer of Thanks” card. “I have been saying this prayer every morning for thirty years,” she said.

Startled, Jean took a closer look. The woman—96 years old that day at the booth—was a former co-worker that Jean hadn’t seen since she presented a copy of the poem at her retirement party thirty years ago.

The woman had gone home after the party, stuck the card in the corner of her mirror and recited it every day since. Jean had no idea that her work, her thoughts and her words had been rippling steadily through all those decades.

That retirement story reminded me of another friend’s recent retirement.

My friend, Brian, retired a few weeks ago after being a United Church minister for forty years. At his final service many of the people whose lives he had touched showed up to support him and to let him know how deeply his work, his thought and his words had affected them.

In his final sermon he referenced the story of the loaves and the fishes. He had started in ministry with only simple gifts to offer. Like the loaves and the fishes, they seemed like they’d never be enough. But with time and grace, his simple gifts were enough. They more than enough. He “fed the throngs” and has leftovers besides.

Simple gifts are all any of us have to offer. They might seem like they’re not enough. But a prayer of thanks, support through grief, kind words, belly laughs . . . they ripple out over the decades.

Those simple gifts are more than enough, with leftovers besides.

Rippling positively …

Teenager creativity: Poetry station

The public library where I work is attached to a high school. The students come and go around us every day.

Today’s teenagers are something else. They are open and honest about aspects of life I either didn’t understand when I was their age, or wouldn’t have talked about with anyone. Sometimes I need to hold on to something to regain my balance when I catch some of their conversations.

They’re also freely creative. For poetry month, we set up a poetry station.

I love the art they created—en anglais et en français In Ottawa, Canada

This one is good advice for anyone, most days.

Poem: May you should chill out.

Because Poetry Month . . . God kin

From one of my favourite books: The Gift,with poems by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. You can see that I have sticky notes on many pages.

Book cover of The Gift

I GOT KIN

Plant 
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,

"Ahhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and 
Rolls."

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh 
Because that is the purest
Sound.