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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Celebrating April, National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month in both the United States and Canada. Here are a few suggestions on how you might celebrate this month:


* Carry a poem in your pocket. Read it to your family, friends, acquaintances. Change the poem every few days throughout the month.


* Write a letter to your favorite living poet. Go to their website and click on “contact.” You can usually leave a message for them there. Or you can send them a letter through their publisher.


* Memorize a favorite poem of yours.


* Find a children’s book that is written in poetry. Then find a child who might enjoy listening to you reading the book.


* Watch or listen to poets reading their poetry. (I selected a few videos of poets doing this at the end of this reflection.)


* Write your own poem(s)!



To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’ve selected three poems for you. Although they are very different from one another, there is a common thread: LIFE… with its pain and sorrow… its springtime and hope… and the persistent questioning: Where is Jesus in all of this?… Poetry is meant to be heard not merely read. So I suggest you read these poems slowly and out loud…


The first is a poem by Bishop Robert Morneau of Green Bay, WI. Although it is set during World War II, it is (sadly) very timely for today:


“Three Miles”


She walked three miles

from the farm to the village,

telegram held in her tense hand.


Off she went to see her sister,

afraid to read the news alone,

knowing, yet not knowing, its message.


Her son, only nineteen years,

fighting in Germany,

World War II in full swing.

Too young to die.


Then sister met sister,

the telegram opened,

the wailing began.








************************************************************************************************


The second poem is one of mine from my book Just Because. I guess it’s theme is that just plain living is a risky business… and we should applaud those hope-filled beings who courageously face those risks and work to extend life into the future…


“Two Little Sparrows”



Outside my bedroom window

on the roof of the porch,

two little sparrows were doing it.

He had trouble with balance at first.

Luckily, she was the epitome of patience.

The whole affair lasted but a moment.

And when they were through,

I clapped.


Why?

Simply because

two little sparrows

got together

to make new sparrows,

despite the toil of care,

potential storms,

droughts, cats,

and circling hawks everywhere.






*********************************************************************************************


The third poem is by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. It’s called “To Mary” and, for me, it captures so beautifully the relationship between Mary and her son, Jesus… and Jesus’ relationship with all of us.


“To Mary”


Mary, where is your son?

I just learned he is within.

The angel told me and it is true.


Mary, where is your son?

He’s over yonder playing—there.

He is with the other boys,

playing Sticks and Stones.

Oh, something on the ground distracted him,

probably a leaf or small bug.


Mary, where is your son?

I don’t know! I thought he was

with the men who thought he was

with the women. We are still searching.

How do I find one boy within this whole city?


Mary, where is your son?

He’s out preaching. He believes it is

his duty, his business, his calling, his destiny.

Sold the shop and went.


Mary, where is your son?

This is Passover. He said he has to be

with his close friends.

My heart is fearful.


Mary, where is your son?

Arrested.

Dead.

Buried.

Alive! He came early this morning.

The light grew at my window and door.

I thought it was torches looking for me

or one of the disciples.

It was he who came through the door

and embraced me in light.


Mary, where is your son?

He’s here with you, with me,

in our midst, in our bread.





********************************************************************************

Do any of the poems or photos speak to you today? If so, which? Do you know why?


Do you have a favorite poem? If so, could you share the title and author with us?


Do you have a favorite poet?



As I said earlier, poems are meant to be heard. Here are four short poems read by their authors: Billy Collins (former U.S. Poet Laureate), Mary Oliver (who won the Pulitzer prize for poetry… she passed away in 2019), Amanda Gorman (Youth Poet Laureate who recited her original poem at Biden’s inauguration), and Joy Harjo (the first Native American to be named U.S. Poet Laureate):


Billy Collins reads “To My Favorite 17-year-old High School Girl.” (You can click on closed captions if you wish):






Mary Oliver reads “Wild Geese”:





The third poem is “Miracle of Morning” by Amanda Gorman. It’s her poem about the “testing time” of the Covid pandemic. (I’m sorry, but closed captions are not available on this video.)




And our final poem is read by Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. It’s entitled “Perhaps the World Ends Here” or “The Kitchen Table Poem.” (No subtitles are available with this video. Sorry).





I welcome you to respond to today’s blog below… especially to any of the poems…



11 Responses

  1. I loved the poems. Bishop Morneau was my teacher as a young priest in the Green Bay diocese. His poems, books and three Point homilies are great parts of my life. The poem about the weeping sisters brought to mind my trip home after my sister found my brother dead from alcoholism 2 months ago. The weeping began when we embraced near hIs body in the morgue. And the last poem from your friend is perfect for our book discussion on Carl Houselander’s “Reed of God.”

    1. Dear Jan, My sympathy to you and your sister on the loss of your brother. How blessed were you both to have each other to lean on… Prayers for your brother and your family… Melannie

  2. Wow, potent, poetic, and beautiful post, Sr Melannie!

    Mary Oliver’s place is among the mystics and spiritual writers, I often feel. Somewhere on the wide cusp between poetry and mysticism. Theodore Roethke might be there too.

    My favourite living poet among the famous is probably Ted Kooser. My favourite poet under 40 is my friend Elena. (And I used to write poem-letters to Elena! I stopped at 100. Not all of them were good. About 40 were reasonably okay.)

    I carry poems in my noggin. Dylan Thomas’s “Author’s Prologue” (up to line 52) since age sixteen. And two sonnets of Shakespeare, and one of Dante’s, and one of Cummings.

    Your poem, Sister, was amazing — understated, and yet very strong! I was also deeply affected by the dialogic poem “To Mary.”

    I think well of Bishop Morneau as he has edited many selections of the work of the Carmelite nun and poet Jessica Powers (1905-88).

    We might not understand poetry, but (and this is more than a glib paradox) poetry understands us!

    Peace, light, and happy April to all!

  3. Thank you Sister, for making my “Monday morning”, as you usually do.
    I especially loved the final poem. As one of Mary’s namesakes, I have always, always felt that the Biblical accounts of the Resurrection appearances left out one of the most important ones! There is NO WAY, Jesus did not come to His Mother – and I loved seeing that someone else agrees with me!

  4. Thank you, Sister Melannie.
    I was touched by Amanda Gorman’s invitation to “give purpose to the ache.” Seen in this light, pain becomes an educator helping us to embrace the gratitude snarled within it.
    May our good and gracious God move us toward healing of our suffering world.

  5. Dear Sr. Melannie,
    I was especially moved by the first poem because it took me back to the morning I stood at my mother-in-laws kitchen door as we watched the military car pull into her driveway. Her son wax also 19 years old.
    I was touched by “To Mary” because it caused me relive the suicides of two grandsons. One was planned – the other accidental.
    Sometimes we need to remember and shed a few more tears and say a few more prayers.
    On a lighter note, I’d like to share a poem I wrote for a granddaughter about 20 years ago. (I always thought I would write a children’s book and even suggested the illustrations.)

    Grandma’s Closet
    In my Grandma’s closet
    Underneath her clothes
    Is a secret toy shop
    Where the neatest things are stored.

    No matter how I’m feeling
    Whether I’m sick
    Or just plained bored
    Grandma steps into her closet
    And finds the thing to save the day.

    There are books
    And there is music.
    There are clothes
    And there are toys.
    Grandma finds the neatest stuff
    And fills my life with joy.

  6. Good afternoon, Sr. Melannie…
    Good afternoon, all…

    There are so many wonderful things in this blog that I hardly no where to begin, but begin I must, and so thank you for being a poetry lover! Bishop Morneau’s poem is achingly poignant. What the sister must have been thinking, hoping during those three miles — so, so heart-wrenching.

    Your poem about the sparrows, considered by some to be the least among birds, is just delightful! Mary Oliver says that paying attention is an act of prayer, and so your poem becomes a prayer, a prayer of thanks for that life-force that pervades the whole earth. Thank you!

    Your friend’s poem about Mary brought to mind Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Truly Our Sister. Mary was one of us, a parent who lived through the emotional vicissitudes of child-rearing long before she was crowned Queen of Heaven.

    And your choice of poets reading their work! Isn’t Billy Collins hilarious! I pass out Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” at that start of each school year. Next year I will also play this YouTube clip.

    Again, thank you!

  7. I had the chance to see and hear Joy Harjo recently at Kent State University. Listening to her read some of her poetry was very enjoyable. One that I liked was Bless This Land from An American Sunrise…

    1. Sister Melannie thanks for your beautiful poems. Here is my favorite poem a dear friend of my used to say this every time she saw a red bush in the fall.
      “Earths crammed with heaven and every common bush aflame with God; and only he who sees takes off his shoes . The rest set around and pluck blackberries”
      God bless you !
      God bless you! Sister Mary Rita

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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