Mercy and Poetry—Poetry Evolved from My Spiritual Life

Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Print

By Eileen McGovern, Mercy Associate

This is the third reflection in our Poetry and Mercy series as part of National Poetry Month. Read the whole series here.

I love to meditate on nature. My spirituality is Ignatian, so I imitate Gerard Manley Hopkins in seeking the “inscape” of creation. I also love to meditate on the scriptures and to place myself in the scene to make them more immediate by using imagery that creates a concrete word picture. At it’s best, my poetry is the fruit of prayer and meditation.

I began to write poetry because a friend asked that I write her a poem as a Christmas gift. I still write poetry more as a gift than as self-expression. I need an occasion or a person to motivate me. My poetry evolved from my spiritual life, so it is personal.

My Perspective

I see the world from the perspective of a 72-year old woman living most of her life in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was also privileged to have taught for seven years in Puerto Rico. The older generation has always mourned the passing of their era; however, I believe that the United States is now at a critical juncture. I believe we are in danger of losing the collective civic and religious virtues that de Toqueville celebrated and that have sustained our nation even with its materialism, imperialism and all the other “isms” that have sullied our history. We are now a nation at war with ourselves. And because of our role in the world, our conflicts have global consequences.  

What Poetry Calls Us To

I believe that poetry can call us to honor our common humanity and our God-given heritage as children of God so that we may better steward ourselves, our nation, our world and our planet. I love William Faulkner’s “Speech of Acceptance” in receiving the Nobel Prize where he references “the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths.”

I find joy when I can express the experience of the presence of God as encountered in prayer and in the reawakening within me of God’s presence in myself, in others and in creation. My poetry is my hymn.

A Poem by Eileen

I wrote the following poem many years ago, but I still find joy in being surprised by a glimpse into the beauty of God’s creation.

All Saints’ Day, 1988

Red, orange, yellow
burning through green
vibrant, seasonal fire,
summer’s fruit
spring’s fruition
leaf leaving
leave taking
autumnal shimmering
sun-drenched embers
quickened fire
flickering on boughs
blown cold
to warm the eye.

Trees vested for passage
laying bare the branch
the tree
crossed limbs
crossed lives
seen only in wintery truth
stark witness–the cross
tree of life and death
adorned, gilded
reliquary of time.

like lives
suffer change
change with suffering.
God’s sufferance
His will:
the green, the gold,
the fire of the cross
Christ’s image
burning within
Living Flame of Love.