April: National Poetry Month

by Melannie Svoboda SND on March 30, 2020

April is National Poetry Month. I have selected three poems to celebrate this wonderful form of writing. All the poems have a Spring and Resurrection theme. I hope you enjoy them.

The first poem is by one of our readers (and frequent responder) John Hopkins, a high-school English teacher who lives in Massachusetts. In this poem he captures some of the simple delights of our earthly life.

I’ll Admit, Lord,

there will be some things I’ll miss:

the slow drip of coffee in the morning

with a pinch of cinnamon in the grounds;

the salt on my over-easy eggs, sourdough toast lightly buttered,

the gentle push and separation of that day’s paper.

I will miss walking on humid days, the sweat gradually emerging

under my ball cap as I stride along,

the sudden cool when I doff the cap upon entering a canopy of shade,

a sudden breeze passing through the numbered hairs I have left.

I will miss sitting on the couch in the evening,

my wife’s foot in my hand, watching our latest obsession

before clicking to see how the Red Sox are doing, staying if they’re ahead.

I will miss the lattice of gold inside the bloom of a rhododendron,

the cooling declaration of an August thunderstorm,

the smell of a neighbor’s wood stove in November,

the sight of our backyard Mary statue up to her neck in snowdrifts,

the sight of her amid the irises.

I will miss the resurrection of things

and hope— please, please, Lord?— for the one to come.

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This second poem is by Sister Doreen Strahler, SND, whose poetry I have featured before. Sister is a retired educator and lives at our provincial center in Chardon, OH.

I Saw Spring Today

I saw spring today, snow piles were almost gone.

I saw spring today in a robin on the lawn.

I saw spring today, crocuses popped their heads.

I saw spring today in sprouts in daffodil beds.

I saw spring today. I heard the children laugh.

I saw spring today, bikers crowding the path.

I saw spring today, warm winds stirred the air.

I saw spring today in weather fresh and fair.

I saw spring today, but I’m wise enough to know,

as I saw spring today, tomorrow I may see snow.

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The final poem is one of my unpublished poems. It’s based on a story a man shared with me a few years back about the death of his mother.

Utopia

His 88-year-old mother died suddenly.

She was found at noon, still in her nightgown and robe,

slumped over in her favorite living room chair.

A half a cup of cold tea sat on the small table beside her.

The day’s crossword puzzle rested on her lap,

and a pen was on the floor next to her tiny slippered feet.

Evidently she had been trying to come up with

a six letter word (second letter T) meaning “ideal place,”

when the Angel of Death sneaked in,

gently tapped her on the shoulder,

and whisked her home.

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Do any of these poems speak to you? If so, why?

What are some of the simple delights of our earthly life that you enjoy?

Do you ever pray with poetry? If so, do you have any favorite poems, poets, or books that you would recommend for us?

PS: I’m recommending a free 95 min. youtube movie for you which I really liked. It’s called “Life in a Day,” and I put it after our song for today. You might want to view it at your leisure this week some time.

For me, COVID-19 has underscored the oneness of our entire earth community. This song by Peter Mayer celebrates this great truth. It’s entitled “Blue Boat Home.” During this critical time, the pictures of our beautiful blue planet sailing in space bring tears to my eyes…

Please feel encouraged to respond below to anything in this reflection–the words, the pictures, the song… I want to thank you again for your responses to my blog each week. I really look forward to your insights and additions!

The movie I suggest for you is called “Life in a Day,” a 95-min. documentary filmed by thousands of people all over the world on a single ordinary day, July 24, 2010. For me, it celebrates humanity’s connectedness as well as our diversity. Let me know what you think of it.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas DeFreitas March 30, 2020 at 4:36 am

So much to like — indeed, so much to love — about these poems!

John, bravo! What stays with me is the pinch of cinnamon in the coffee grounds, the lattice of gold inside the rhododendron, and the quintessential sign of deep autumn, November woodsmoke.

Sr Doreen’s poem uses one of my favourite poetic devices, anaphora (the repetition of “I saw spring today” at the beginning of each line!). And I admire the keen wit of the closing couplet!

Sr Melannie, your poem is a poignant felicity. The accuracy is that of a poet: the pen, the crossword puzzle, the tiny slippered feet, the half-drunk tea.

I pray with poetry constantly, or at least, consistently. Before I meditate (what I call “chair prayer”) I place myself in the Presence with two poems by George Herbert, his sonnet called “Prayer” and the beautiful song “The Call” (“Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life”).

This Lent, since about 8 days into March, I’ve begun the practice of reading exactly one poem by my dear friend Elena Lee Johnson to begin the day. Elena has self-published a book called Turning Earth. She counts herself a student of Mary Oliver and of Jane Kenyon, but there are times when (IMHO) the student surpasses her teachers! Elena’s poetry is a gift and a grace.

Such a joy to be here, on a chill dark early morning, with the coffee just brewed (sans cinnamon, John!), and with everyone finding new ways to gather and to inspire one another. Peace, light, and health to all.

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Susan March 30, 2020 at 8:54 am

Good morning. Such beautiful poetry this morning. I enjoyed all three. John your poem really spoke to me because I too love all the little things in life. The scents, sounds and sensations are truly precious.

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Kathleen Magiera March 30, 2020 at 5:18 am

Good Morning Everyone!

My dog Ernie got me up early this morning so here I am.

Sr. Melannie’s Utopia speaks to me. Transcending from one world to the next can creep in that quietly for some people. How beautiful to let go and go to God so easily.

God bless. Be safe everyone.

Kathleen

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Ed Johnson March 30, 2020 at 5:36 am

Sister,
So much beauty in the poems you’ve shared with us today; all so lovely. I especially loved the imagery of John’s poem, and how his words put me right there……time and place. As a gift, I gave my wife the book ,”Love Poems From God,” a few years ago. Maybe someday she’ll buy me my own copy! We both love the poetry within. As for me, I enjoy writing haiku (5-7-5)….it connects me to the world and people around me, and most especially to God. I find the Psalms especially beautiful for lectio divina. Mayer’s song, and the images, are wonderful. It has been several years since I’ve seen “Life In A Day.” A terrific film; good time right now on our earth, to watch once again.

Last week I wrote of my wife’s exposure to Covid 19. Sixteen days now, and no symptoms! Thanks be to God, and for everyone’s prayers. The quarantine period is officially concluded. Peace, Blessings, and Safety to All.
Ed J

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Mary March 30, 2020 at 7:32 am

Dear Sister,
What I’ll miss…it’s hard these days not to think about the strong possibility that death could be right around the corner being the age that I am. “I Must Admit” reminds me that it truly is the simple things, the simple joys that make our lives so rich and fill our hearts with gratitude. It is in these moments I feel so deeply the love of God. “I Saw Spring Today “ fills my heart with hope for spring truly is a gloriously hopeful season filled with the symphony of birds, the comedy of the squirrels, and the joyful rebirth of the garden. “ Utopia” reminds me of the sacredness of death. Poetry soothes my soul, and your words, Sister, always inspire me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Mary James Kelly March 30, 2020 at 8:08 am

I don’t use poetry enough. It always speaks
volumes to me. I think that’s why I like
folk music– it so often poetry put to music
These poems today have so very much to contemplate. Thank you John and my dear
sisters. Here s one for you: Faith
Hope
Joy
Peace
Embrace His fee
Touch me not
Fingers in His side
He is still in charge
ALLELUIA

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June March 30, 2020 at 9:11 am

Loved Blue Boat Home video. And I if anyone is interested, you can go to NASA Hubble and get the image it captured on your birth date. They are absolutely amazing photos!

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Kathy Curran March 30, 2020 at 9:36 am

I saw the face of God in each of the poems and am grateful for the comfort and warmth they brought to me on this gray day in Boston. I’m new to the Boston area and I felt my husband move right along with me. He saw the face of God in everyone and saw beauty in all around and in the circumstances of life. I was blessed. Thank you for sharing these poems today.

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anita comp March 30, 2020 at 9:48 am

Loved all 3 poems! I especially identified with “I’ll Admit Lord.” I lived in Massachusetts for yrs and now reside across the MASS border in CT. I felt I had lived that poem. Love a little cinnamon in my coffee too! Thanks so much all of you. P.S. I’m in a community choir and our theme song for this spring concert is “Blue Boat Home.” hmmm, very interesting! God bless all of you!

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JoAnne C Somerville March 30, 2020 at 10:06 am

Melanie,
I always love the music you choose to close your weekly blog! Thanks! Reading your blog is a great way to start my week

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Pete March 30, 2020 at 10:28 am

I’m not a poetry guy, but I read these poems over three times and I get it! And, why do I feel I am on the “Blue Boat”? I loved the song.
The video will be watched during our time of isolation. Thanks!

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Jean March 30, 2020 at 11:57 am

Good Monday Morning Sister Melannie,
Thank you!!
Utopia really hit home. I was blessed to find my dear Mom “asleep” in her chair one Saturday morning. She had showered, dressed, prepared breakfast and was sitting down to read the newspaper. She had her glasses on but the newspaper was still on the table by her side. There was Walter Cronkite on the cover, he had just passed away. Mom and I had a phone conversation about him the evening before and she said how sad she was that he was gone. My weekend home with Mom was not what we had planned at all, however, out of her six children I had the honor of being there at that time and place. The angels had taken her to join our Dad and Our Father.
Thank you for the uplifting readings and videos.
Stay Safe and Stay Healthy.

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John E Hopkins March 30, 2020 at 12:10 pm

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

So glad I could contribute a few words to Sister’s blog. Thank you, Sister Melannie! It was an honor to share space with you and Sister Doreen. Thanks all — so good to be with you every Monday!

Poems: the psalms of the everyday.

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Jack DiLullo March 30, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Sister, thank you for the poetry and the link to the YouTube movie Life in a Day.
It showed me how different, yet how similar we all really are.

Jack

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Janet Kreiner March 30, 2020 at 2:39 pm

Dear Sister Melanie, Your selection of poetry moved me to tears especially UTOPIA. I’m 80 years old now and I have lost so many older family and friends these past few years. Occasionally, I wonder when and where the angel of death will come for me.

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Cheryl Zelazo March 30, 2020 at 4:46 pm

I enjoyed all the poems but especially the last one! No one looks forward to death but what a simple yet profound end of days!!

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Tom March 30, 2020 at 6:04 pm

Melannie,
Wouldn’t it be interesting if the extent to which we will enjoy eternity will be in proportion to the extent that we took time and made the effort to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation during our lifetime on earth!
And your poem was so beautiful: a dear soul searching for utopia and finding paradise!

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Janet March 30, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Utopia touched my heart! It brought memories of my sweet wonderful mother. She did her crossword puzzle every morning in her favorite chair❤️ She passed in October and all her children were with her holding her hands. Thank you for making my Mondays special

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Jeannie March 31, 2020 at 6:26 am

This morning, I feel that I can add nothing to the beauty of the words I’ve read in the poems, your writings, Sister, and the comments that followed. I feel deeply comforted by all of these words!
I came to your site after reading your reflection for today, 3/31, in Give Us This Day. That reflection spoke so deeply to me. Yesterday was a long day…our school went online with distance learning, and it was a hard day. So many emails and texts…so much anxiety on the part of parents, students and teachers. Your reflection brought me back to where my hope and my trust remain…in God. He really does have the whole world in His hands! Thank you for reminding me of that majestic truth! Peace and prayers!

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 31, 2020 at 8:24 am

Dear Everyone, Thank you for reading my blog. You make it a joy for me to post something every Monday. I really appreciate your comments… the sharing of your personal experience… your insights… letting the rest of us know what spoke to you. The news this morning is grim, but that’s when our faith must be the strongest. So thanks again… and keep the responses coming! May God bless us all! Melannie

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Cathy March 31, 2020 at 8:37 am

Good morning,
Just a quick thank you for your reflection in Give Us This Day for today March 31. It is so appropriate for the world’s situation right now and always, especially since it was written before the pandemic was announced.

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Melannie Svoboda SND March 31, 2020 at 8:54 am

Thank you, Cathy. Yes, I wrote today’s reflection in “Give Us this Day” almost a year ago… Melannie

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Molly March 31, 2020 at 8:59 am

Thanks for the inspiration! I wrote this haiku after texting with my daughter (lives in another city) lastnight:
Pandemic Texting

Three tiny black dots
Thinking – bouncing – now stopping
Your heart touches mine

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Mary March 31, 2020 at 12:01 pm

I’m going to try the pinch of cinnamon!

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Gretchen March 31, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Thank you Sr.Melanie for these wonderful poems. I so admire people who can give such an eloquent voice to the everyday stuff that make life so worth living. “Utopia” would, for me, the BEST possible exit off the planet.

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Kathleen M Turk April 1, 2020 at 2:40 pm

Sister, trying my hand at poetry! Also, love your contributions in Living With Christ! God bless, Kathie Turk

Isolation is a blessing.
More time to commune with God.
Pray. Reflect. Breathe!
I’m lifted up on His breath.

Each time I get lonely,
He blows a kiss to me.
A virtual kiss from friends and family,
through text and phone calls.
A kiss from my 2 1/2 year old grandson
blown to me via video chat.
With an “I love you, Mae Mae”,
And he’s off to play.

Yes Lord, I caught your kiss
Upon the balm of Your breath.
Thank you for slowing me down to receive it!

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Jean Canatsey April 2, 2020 at 11:15 pm

Dear Sr. Melannie,
Thank you so much for the lovely poems and for the “normalcy” of your blog in this uncertain time. My husband and I absolutely loved “Blue Boat Home” and watched it multiple times.

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Helen Kemper April 3, 2020 at 11:58 am

Hi Sr.Melamie,
Your poem utopia touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. My dad who fought his personal demon most of his life returned to God late in his life via a Jesuit retreat that someone invited him to attend. He returned from that retreat a different man. The man the man that God had always intended him to be. One night he sat down in his favorite rocker and God gently called him home. Our merciful God is so good! Every Monday morning you remind us of that. Thank you and bless you.
Helen K

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