Poetry


My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from the words of my groaning?
— Psalm 22:1-2

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear?
Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save?
— Habakkuk 1:2

Turn, O Lord!  How long?  Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
— Psalm 90:13-14


Homicide Survivors
I have to become a survivor and I can do it.
The hardest part of my loss I have been through it.
Having to face this world again, I will learn to pretend
Until my broken heart has time to mend.

The grief and pain I’m feeling is my own
But it’s easier knowing that I’m not alone.
Sadness, heartache, loneliness and pain
Tragic death is hardest on those who remain.

I have to become a survivor now and I can do it.
I’ll ask God and He will help me get through it.
— Sharon McClain-Boyer


Kindness
Before you know what kindness really is
you must love things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense any more,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with your everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
— Naomi Shihab Nye


I Will Try
I will try.
I will step from the house to see what I see
and hear and I will praise it.
I did not come into this world
to be comforted.
I came, like the red bird, to sing.
But I’m not a red bird, with his head-mop of flame
and the red triangle of this mouth
full to tongue and whistles,
but a woman whose love has vanished,
who thinks now, too much, of roots
and the dark places
where everything is simply holding on.
But this too, I believe, is a place
where God is keeping watch
until we rise, and step forth again and -
but wait. Be still. Listen!
Is it red bird? Or something
inside myself, singing?
— Mary Oliver


Everything Is Plundered
Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death’s black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?

By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town,
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.

And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined dirty houses –
something not known to anyone at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.
— Anna Akhmatova


Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
— Psalm 69:1-3


Friendship
Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort
of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words – but pouring them
all right out – just as they are –
Chaff and grain together –
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them–
Keep what is worth keeping–
And with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.
— Dinah Maria Mulock Craik


To My Sweet Crushed Angel
(an original poem about resilience – the ability to restore oneself after compressive stress – written for victims of crime)
How does it feel
to be a Heart?
O my sweet crushed angel, you
are not at fault
for falling
out of the glittering
sky. Life is
dangerous, full
of pain. You
lie tangled in a heap
of rage, Beat.
Quiver shame, still
radiant. It is all
part of being
a Heart. Unlike other
small, brittle creatures
you can be
loved back into
flight. In time.
the mind unsnarls
from fright,
mournful cries
deciphered kindly.
Wings regrow. O my
sweet crushed angel, there
will be a scar – but
that’s not all
you are – every atom
was once a star.
This shining trumps
the choir of dark.
Let the quiet shimmer,
lift you
celestial, where
every damaged bit
only facets
the unbreakable
incandescent part
of Heart.
Living from here
is an art. See
what happens
if you willingly
unfurl your gossamer
into a new shape,
start:
Recovery.
— Mary Mulvihill


O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in
your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.

For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember
no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a thing of
horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot
escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades rise up to praise you?
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in
Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land
of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
in the morning my prayer
comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death
from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood
all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and
neighbor to shun me;
my companions are in darkness.
— Psalm 88


The Mother Writes to the Murderer: A Letter
"Alicia didn’t like sadness."
The Dallas Morning News

To you whose brain is a blunt fist
pushed deep inside your skull
whose eyes are empty bullets
whose mouth is a stone more speechless
than lost stones at the bottoms of rivers
who lives in a shrunken world where nothing blooms
and no promise is ever kept

To you whose face I never saw but now see
everywhere the rest of my life

You don’t know where she hid her buttons

arranged in families by color or size
tissue-wrapped in an oatmeal box
how she told them goodnight...sleep well
and never felt ashamed

You don’t know her favorite word
and I won’t tell you

You don’t have her drawings taped to your refrigerator
blue circuses, red farms
You don’t know she cried once in a field of cows
saying they were too beautiful to eat

I’m sure you never thought of that
I’m sure nothing is too beautiful for you to eat

You have no idea what our last words were to one another
how terribly casual
because I thought she was going a block away
with her brother to the store
They would be back in ten minutes

I was ironing her dress
while two houses away an impossible darkness
rose up around my little girl

What can I wish you in return?
I was thinking knives and pistols
high voltages searing off your nerves
I was wishing you could lose your own life
bit by bit finger by toe
and know what my house is like

how many doors I still will have to open

Maybe worse would be for you to love something
and have it snatched up sifted out of your sight
for what reason?
a flurry of angels recalled to heaven
and then see how you sit
and move and remember
how you sleep at night
how you feel about mail my letter to you
all the letters passing through all the hands
of the people on earth
when the only one that matters
is the one you can neither receive
nor send
— Naomi Shihab Nye


Last Night
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that I had a beehive here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth.
And sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night, as I slept,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
— Antonio Machado


Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me."
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
— Isaiah 49:13-16


Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
— Matthew 5:4


When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,
"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping,
he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him,
"Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep.
— John 11:32-35


A Psalm of Lament
Creator God,
whose thought formed the universe
and every star in heaven,
Creator God, whose hand has caressed into being
what our minds have failed to comprehend,

Why does my spirit remain strong but my body dissolves
like the hills under the lash of wind and rain?
Why does my heart beat with the strength of my youth
but I am betrayed by life seeping from my arms?

All life comes from you,
it is a gift of exquisite value.
Think on me, LORD, think on me.

Let my life have purpose
even when my body fails.
Let my life have value even when I am twisted and frozen in time.

My heart will sing your praise.
The voice in my mind will
joyfully speak your name.

For the life in my heart
will always know your salvation.
For the life in my heart
is the work of your hand.
O my Creator.

Rev. Richard Reed, Senior Pastor
St. Andrew United Methodist Church
Arlington, Texas


Healing
When you have a wound,
you carry the wound.
After a while the wound
becomes a scar.
And you carry the scar.

Sometimes the scar makes you feel strong.
You run your fingers along its edge.
You say, here, in this place,
I survived.

Sometimes the scar feels like a cord,
forever tethering you
to suffering.
It pulls at you when you wish to fly.
It says, stay here.

But sometimes another thing occurs.
And you don’t know it. You never know it,
you don’t ever notice when it happens.
You don’t feel it in increments.
You don’t anticipate its design.

Just, one day, a long time later,
or a short time that feels like a long time,
or a long time that feels like a short time,
you wake up.
And you’re okay.

And at some point in that day,
you realize, hey, I’m okay.
You touch the place where the wound was.
Where the scar was.
And it’s not so tender, anymore.
It’s a map of what was, but the kind of map
where you need reference points and a code and a key
if you want to find your way back
to that original pain.
The way is no longer obvious,
no longer the default mode.

Thirty years ago, in this season,
the season of KolNidre, of who shall live
and who shall die, I nearly died
from fevers and a perforated bowel.
And I woke up today.
And I’m okay.

Twelve years ago, today,
I lived in a city of smoke.
And the towers fell.
There were people covered in ash.
My cousin walked 100 blocks.
Where I worked, photos of the lost
lined the entry for a year.
No one slept. We lived as if
in a terrible dream.
This went on for a while. And each year,
the reminders.

And then.
Its not that we forget.
We don’t. I don’t. I never will.
But I woke today under a New Mexico sky.
It had rained all night,
and clouds banked against the mountain
like a Turner painting gone rogue.
And I drove to work and blessed the light.
And then, only then, I remembered.
And I realized, so softly, so gently,
I’m okay.

— Dvorah Simon 9/11/13
Additonal poetry by Dvorah Simon is available in her book Mercy (Hanford Mead publisher)