|Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit|
"here in the dark I clutch the garments of God."
After learning that Jessica Powers was the author of several volumes of poetry, I quickly put in a request at my favorite library, St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Salzmann Library, and was soon holding every book by or about this wonderful poet within my hands. Jessica Powers was a close friend to Green Bay's Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau and several of her books of poetry were collected and edited by this local holy man. You can read an article of his about her here.
One of the things that impresses me the most about Jessica Powers is that she has a great love for nature, specifically the wilds of Wisconsin. I brought several of her poetry editions along with me when my family and I took a recent camping vacation to Devil's Lake State Park just south of her hometown of Mauston. While sitting around the campfire, my husband suggested that we have a poetry reading, with my children, and he and I each taking a turn reading one of her poems aloud. After each reading, everyone snapped their fingers, which is apparently the hip thing to do to show appreciation for the poem instead of clapping. I was just so happy to introduce spiritual poetry to my family as willing participants that although I would have preferred silence in lieu of the snapping, I went along with the game anyway and found that it was most enjoyable. If the Spirit inspires you, feel free to snap your fingers after reading the following poems by Jessica Powers, or simply absorb them in silence.
Doves (from: The Lantern Burns)
A dove in the air,
A dove in the sea,
And a dove in your glance
When you look at me.
Feather of dusk,
Wings in the grain,
And a crumpled bird
In the wake of pain.
With their drifting wings;
In a dream, in a song
That a poet sings;
In the touch of death,
In the kiss of love,
And God Himself
As a snow-white dove.
The Seventh Station (from: The Place of Splendor)
The corner is dark and nobody sees this station.
He falls again, and the picture has nothing new.
The air is musty, crowded under the choir loft,
And people pass with a hurried glance or two.
I think that it must have been true in ancient Juda
As it is true on this shaded chapel wall
That He Whose love had rooted itself in suffering
Would find the most uncomforting place to fall.
Take Your Only Son (from: The House at Rest)
None guessed our nearness to the land of vision,
not even our two companions to the mount.
That you bore wood and I, by grave decision,
fire and sword, they judged of small account.
Speech might leap wide to what were best unspoken
and so we plodded, silent, through the dust.
I turned my gaze lest the heart be twice broken
when innocence looked up to smile its trust.
O love far deeper than a lone begotten,
how grievingly I let your words be lost
when a shy question guessed I had forgotten
a thing so vital as the holocaust.
Hope may shout promise of reward unending
and faith buy bells to ring its gladness thrice,
but these do not preclude earth's tragic ending
and the heart shattered in its sacrifice.
Not beside Abram does my story set me.
I built the altar, laid the wood for flame.
I stayed my sword as long as duty let me,
and then alas, alas, no angel came.