Saturday, October 19, 2019



Across the miles, dear friend, I send
a shining Christmas prayer
wrapped in a flame of starlight
and blue-white crystal air.

It sings of a royal Baby
with heaven in His eyes,
of little eager gestures
and glances angel-wise.

It sings of a darling Lady
whose smile is shadowed sun,
telling of Love’s sweet loving
and a grief it has begun.

It sings the noble quiet
of rough, brown, tender hands
whose wealth is their great yearning
to do her dear commands.

And when this prayer has reached you,
Oh, tell the Glorious Three
that you have received my message,
and send one back to me.

Sister Michael Marie IWBS
Sign.  December 1946


We who companion Christ brave death with Him
and seal upon our souls His tragic story;
as Mary pondered on no golden dream,
but a clear vision, tinged with blood and glory.
Yet in Gethsemane we fall asleep
but a stone’s throw from where His blood is sweat,
or seek the fires of an outer court
and all our vaunted loyalties forget.

O Mary, sure of sight and strong of soul,
lend us thy constancy in seeing far.
Fulfil of sorrowing our mystic seven;
redeem our holocaust and make it whole
lest the night find us, clutching some cold star,
slain in the very vestibule of heaven.

Sister M Michael SSJ
Spirit.  September 1949

Used with permission


Seven times seven
the beads I toll, [1]
chiming the music of your griefs
about my soul.

Long since my sires
and their sires before
changed their charms against the storm,
against the hoar.

Charm for the foal,
a charm against rain
potent potion for the new-bud life, and
woman in pain.

Poor were my sires
with never a bead
to fling at the Ivory Tower  [2]
and cry their need.

Seven times seven                                                                   the beads I press,
succour the seed of my sires, Queen,                                  
in this distress.                                                                         
Sister Maura SSND
Initiate the heart.  1946
Used with permission

[1] This is a reference to the dolours rosary, which consists of seven sets of seven beads.  Each set represents one of the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
[2] “Tower of Ivory” is one of the titles of praise used in the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The poet is sorrowful because her pagan ancestors, though loyal to their own pagan deities, were deprived of the solace she finds in turning to God’s mother for comfort.

Monday, October 7, 2019



This is not a background picturesque;
(flats and sets) for cloister garth in novel or in play:
suggestion of the medieval in the costume; frustration in the spirit;
“sad and serene” in a half-resisted, half-desired hideaway.

Curl of a copper-foil moon
On a Christmas tree; no stars.  The starched white frame
Of wimple and of veil a cyclotron
Where ash-gray, jewel wings cavort in candle flame
Warm, stammering light.

The nuns walk in processional
Between the hydrangea blossoms cowled in heat,
Crisp holly and smooth-leaved rhododendron shrubs.
Twigs and broken brush snap like puppies at the slow-paced feet;
Wax melts to candle wyvern [1] and to gargoyle.

The nuns pray, “Hail Mary ... Holy Mary ...”
And the valley prays; the tennis court; the parking lot;
Terrace and lawn and road; the sweet gum prays;
The hawthorn; Spanish oak; yew and maple trees; the knot
Of new-born mockingbirds nestling in the lime; a family of owls,
The squirrels, the kitten and the dog.  “Hail Mary full of grace ... Holy Mary ...”

This is nothing like the neat enclosure
(sets and flats) of Spanish “Cradle Song,” or – French and quaint –
the nuns of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”  These are not nuns of time or place,
but God.

Queen and Lady, though nuns and night and prayer
Are mummers at your throne, it is you who walk with them,
It is you who carry light – a quiet semaphore to God;
It is your country lane they walk; your Bethlehem;
Your Nazareth; Gethsemane; and Ephesus.

Lady, it is your silence
In which they walk back to the cloister, to stifling cell
-          and hot and heavy muslin of the bed.

Lady, it is your joy
That rocks the campus like a cradle
through the summer night, so that the Little Boy
(still in exile) does not weep,
but laughs in His Father’s providence, and falls
(as Péguy [2] says men should) content to sleep.

Sister Maura SSND
Spirit.  1953-54

[1] monstrous image
[2] Charles Péguy (1873-1914), Catholic writer, publisher and poet.  His works include a collection of poems in praise of the Blessed Virgin.



This is the Virgin Mother.  How young she is.
Only as old as prophecy: seven swords ...
and the Child for the rise and fall of many; [1] as
young as the joy of mothering God.  No words

On her lips, but the eyes lowered to the Child in her arms,
And children to the last generation of all.  The veil
And hair blown back by desert simoom, the storms
Of heat and sand swirling past the Nile.

But everything is tranquil in this carven face,
This woman’s poise, these cradling hands that hold
Redemption like a Little One.  Peace
Is the triumph of faith.  If the virginal veil is belled

To the winds, the heart is undisturbed.  And I,
Kneeling, read this braille – wood, and know why.

Sister Maura SSND
Spiritual Life.  1959.  Used with permission

[1] Luke II:34



Once I looked up: Hail Mary.  It means
Ave Maria, 1 & 2.  A quote
from Poe? [1]  or Scott [2] has some romantic lines
on it.  No.  Schubert, [3] of course.  Trite

as melodies go, but good for popular appeal.
1. the salutation of the angel;  2.
 one of the small beads on a rosary.  That is all
      the dictionary tells.  My mother knew

another meaning.  She gave it to me with
singing, skipping, laughing, listening, and waiting
for birthdays.  She read the tidings to me, breath
gentled to the sound of Gabriel’s greeting.

Hail Mary.  Two words to say and know
God walked in Paradise and thought of you.

Sister Maura SSND
Spirit.  1967-1968
Used with permission

[1] Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote a Marian praise poem entitled “Hymn”.
[2] Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) wrote a Marian praise poem entitled “Ave Maria”.  It is found in Canto IV of  “The Lady of the Lake”.
[3] The composer Franz Schubert ( 1797-1828) set the “Ave Maria” by Scott in its German translation to music.  The composition to this day enjoys great popular appeal.



In every tongue a little lullaby
for dusk and children in the cradle curve
of arm.  A word for “love”, a word to swerve
off hate, a word for “live”, for “die”.
In every tongue a question – what and why –
in each the answer, this – to praise, to serve,
to reign.  One word to snare the poet’s verve
there is, and one to praise a starlit sky.

Our Pentecostal Lady of the tongues,
come, liquefy the barriers of sound;
in your few words were swept and scaled the rungs
of love’s largesse, and worlds serenely spanned.
Ah Lady, pray that here He may increase
in those whose voices hope to bring His peace.

Sister Maura SSND
Where once the wild Arbutus grew.  1945
Used with permission.



All these of paintings we have loved – The Head
of the Virgin where mindfulness of Him
is light translucent on her face; the rim
unflawed that Botticelli wrought to wed
Madonna of the Angels to the bread
of earth and sorrowing; and Raphael’s whim
that caught Madonna of the Chair, nor dim,
nor old is love in colour harvested.

From field, and throne, at crib, and cross is blent
the dream we dream of her; in oil, and chalk,
in fresco and in water complement
but though through these our love appears to walk,
this ours to master, make to timeless art –
Our Lady, living, lovely in the heart.

Sister Maura SSND
Where once the wild Arbutus grew.  1945
Used with permission



If this were not your month, my Mother, child
and Church would be your witness that the stars
are virginal as water; earth is aisled
with prophecy, and night with filial rays
of bright apocalyptic stars.  But May
is more: May is the child-created land
where every wilted, homely daisy spray
is for a Queen; May is the gold command
of new encyclical[ 1] on not-new truth.
May is the sound of Introit-jubilee. [2]
The unfulfilled fulfilled canon of youth;
is sleep at last; is joy in transiency

May hints eternity through blossom screen;
Mary is our folded hands in yours, dear Queen.

Sister Maura SSND
America.  1954
Used with permission

[1] The name given to a letter which contains a papal pronouncement.
[2] Introit: the entrance antiphon intoned before a priest celebrates the Eucharist.



Changed be our vesture ... fasting and weeping ...
Ashes and sackcloth, these be all our wear ...[2]
How, within the lazy languour of ripe habit,
will I in penance fare?

The scourge of little whips can hardly touch
the secret sins, maculate and kept,
I can adjust a hair shirt with a mirror,
and make the Miserere [3] sound inept.

You are my valour, Mother, signed upon your year;
in you only am I sanctioned; in your face
alone my weeping finds no mockery;
my more than bread and water holy in your grace.

I desire (God knows how I desire) the cross,
though starveling in love, and inducted to dismay.
You are my valour, Mother, signed upon this year;
terrible as an army, impregnable in array.

Sister Maura SSND
America.  April 1954
Used with permission

[1] Lent: the forty days preceding Easter, marked by fasting and abstinence.
[2] Jonas III-7:8
[3] Have mercy