|Jessica Power's gravestone in the dark|
(Can you read it? Try clicking on
it to see it better)
So after I picked up my daughter, Mary, from her volleyball practice, we raced across town to Holy Cross Cemetery hoping to find the gravestone of Jessica Powers before nightfall. Holy Cross Cemetery is quite large and even though we had directions from the cemetery office, we were just about to give up the hunt, feeling that it was a hopeless venture, as the dark night was quickly overtaking us. We were beginning to feel just a bit more than deliciously frightened to be in the cemetery after dark and decided that the sane thing to do would be to give up the search and come back on a brighter day, when I stumbled across the humble plot of the Carmelite nun, which, considering the fact that she was a lover of nature, was fittingly beside a lovely pond where ducks quietly floated under the branches of a weeping willow tree. "Here it is!" I shouted with joy, startling my daughter who was keeping up a brave appearance despite the desolate surroundings. Together we offered a prayer for the soul of the long-gone woman and then I recited my favorite poem of hers, The Valley of the Cat-tails. Mary quickly took a picture of the small headstone and we raced back to the car and headed home.
The next day I was inspired to write a poem of my own to ingrain that paparazzi-like moment in my mind forever. When I read it to my children, Joe asked me how long I spent writing it and I responded that I worked on it for all of ten minutes. "I could tell," replied Joe.
I offer my quickly transcribed poem here for your amusement, followed by Jessica Powers' The Valley of the Cat-tails. You will see that I have a long way to go before anyone will be searching through a cemetery in the dark looking for my gravestone in an effort to honor me!
Poet by the Pond: by Me
As early evening shades of gloom
cast themselves over every tomb
two brave women came walking
In search of one whose fame was known
for poetry of God's love that shone
in hearts that now were stalking
And when at last through careful comb
they found her everlasting home
they rejoiced with shouts and talking
After quiet prayer and recitation of poem
from melancholy yet small-sized tome
the task was now completed
The camera clicked in evening dark
and women ran to leave the park
for the van was warmly heated
They left the grave beside the pond
trusting that Sr. Miriam was beyond
this earth she long had fleeted
The Valley of the Cat-tails (from The Lantern Burns)
My valley is a woman unconsoled.
Her bluffs are amethyst, the tinge of grief;
Her tamarack swamps are sad.
There is no dark tale that she was not told;
There is no sorrow that she has not had.
She has no mood of mirth, however brief.
Too long I praised her dolors in the words
Of the dark pines, her trees.
And the whippoorwills, her sacred birds.
Her tragedy is more intense than these.
The reeds that lift from every marsh and pond
More plainly speak her spirit's poverty.
Here should the waters dance, or flowers be.
Her reeds are proper symbols of a mother
Who from the primer of her own dark fears,
As if the caroling earth possessed no other,
Teaches her young the alphabet of tears.