Category Archives: poetry

A Christmas Poem

I see a twinkle in your eye, so this shall be my Christmas star and I will travel to your heart: the manager where the real things are.

And I will find a mother there who holds you gently to her breast, a father to protect your peace, and by these things you shall be blessed.

And you will always be reborn and I will always see the star and make the journey to your heart: the manager where the real things are.

by Leunig

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Lyrics: Jesus, Friend of a Wounded Heart

Since I live in China, the internet ministry is really my church. I woke up and decided to listen to Moody Church Hour.  (I’ll go to the cathedral for Pentecost mass this evening, but that will be in Chinese.)

I listened to a recording entitled “When We are Forgiven” and it opened with this powerful song, Jesus, Friend of a Wounded Heart. Boy, I wish we sang this at my church back in Illinois.

Friend of a Wounded Heart

Smile, make them think you’re happy
Lie and say that things are fine
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don’t ever show it, just keep your heart concealed

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you’ll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes

Jesus, He meets you where you are
Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you’re longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Joy comes like the morning
Hope deepens as you grow
And peace beyond the reaches of your soul
Comes blowing through you for love has made you whole

Once like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where could you turn?
You spoke the words of a prayer
And you found Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes

Jesus, He meets you where you are
Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you’re longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Jesus, He meets you where you are
Jesus, He heals your secret scars
And all the love you’re longing for is Jesus
All the love that you need, oh it’s Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Friend of a wounded heart, friend of a wounded heart
Friend of a wounded heart, friend of a wounded heart


Everything but God

In Europe you can see cathedrals
from far away. As you drive toward them
across the country they are visible—stony
and roosted on the land—even before the towns
that surround them. In New York you come
upon them with no warning, turn a corner
and there one is: on 5th Avenue St. Patrick‘s,
spiny and white as a shell in a gift shop; dark
St. Agnes lost near a canal and some housing
projects in Brooklyn; or St. John the Divine,
listed in every guidebook yet seeming always
like a momentary vision on Amsterdam
Avenue, with its ragged halo of trees, wide stone
steps ascending directly out of traffic.

Lately I have found myself unable
to pass by. The candles’ anonymous
wishes waver and flame near the entrance, bright
numerous, transitory and eternal
as a migration: the birds that fly away
are never exactly the same as those that return.
The gray, flowering arches’ ribs rise
until they fade, the bones so large and old
they belong to an undetected time
on earth. Here and there people’s small backs
in prayer, the windowed saints’ robes’ orchid
glow, the shadows—ghosts of a long nocturnal
snow from a sky below when we did not yet
exist, with our questions tender as burns.


A Prayer in Spring

by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.


From the Writer’s Almanac

Prayer

by Marie Howe

Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage

I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here

among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.


Advent Poem, #2

Advent

by Mary Jo Salter

Wind whistling, as it does
in winter, and I think
nothing of it until

it snaps a shutter off
her bedroom window, spins
it over the roof and down

to crash on the deck in back,
like something out of Oz.
We look up, stunned—then glad

to be safe and have a story,
characters in a fable
we only half-believe.

Look, in my surprise
I somehow split a wall,
the last one in the house

we’re making of gingerbread.
We’ll have to improvise:
prop the two halves forward

like an open double door
and with a tube of icing
cement them to the floor.

Five days until Christmas,
and the house cannot be closed.
When she peers into the cold

interior we’ve exposed,
she half-expects to find
three magi in the manger,

a mother and her child.
She half-expects to read
on tablets of gingerbread

a line or two of Scripture,
as she has every morning
inside a dated shutter

on her Advent calendar.
She takes it from the mantel
and coaxes one fingertip

under the perforation,
as if her future hinges
on not tearing off the flap

under which a thumbnail picture
by Raphael or Giorgione,
Hans Memling or David

of apses, niches, archways,
cradles a smaller scene
of a mother and her child,

of the lidded jewel-box
of Mary’s downcast eyes.
Flee into Egypt, cries

the angel of the Lord
to Joseph in a dream,
for Herod will seek the young

child to destroy him. While
she works to tile the roof
with shingled peppermints,

I wash my sugared hands
and step out to the deck
to lug the shutter in,

a page torn from a book
still blank for the two of us,
a mother and her child.

“Advent” by Mary Jo Salter, from Open Shutters.


Advent Poem

Advent

BY DONALD HALL

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
        Of Calvary.
When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
        At Tenebrae.
When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
        Horror vacui.

Advent

by Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.


From the Writers’ Almanac

Hear My Prayer, O Lord . . .

Cropped screenshot of William Powell and Myrna...

Image via Wikipedia

Hear my prayer, O Lord, though all I do all day is watch
old black-and-white movies on TV. Speak to me
through William Powell or Myrna Loy, solve the mystery
of my sloth. Show me the way to take a walk or catch
a cold, anything but read another exposé
of the Kennedys. Teach me to sing or at least play
the piano. For ten years I took lessons, and all
I learned was to hate Bach. Shake me up or down. Call
me names. Break my ears with AC/DC—I deserve far
worse. Rebuke me in front of my ersatz friends. Who cares?
They don’t like me much anyway. Make me fat in lieu
of thin. Give me a break or don’t. I’m a hundred million
molecules in search of an author. If that’s you, thank you
for my skin. Without it I’d be in worse shape than I’m in.

“Hear My Prayer, O Lord…” by Barbara Hamby, from All-Night Lingo Tango.

I love how real and current this sonnet is. You don’t have to live in the Renaissance to write one.


A Poem by Hopkins

My Own Heart

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather — as skies
Betweenpie mountains — lights a lovely mile.