Monasteries of the Heart

Poem-April 2012

View all posts in Heart of the Matter

Poetry always goes to the “heart of the matter.” So once a month this blog presents a poem for you to play with. To get things started I ask a question or two and put in a writing prompt that I play with.

This poem by Christopher Reid may seem like a strange one for Holy Week but it is a time for “remember me.”

from “What the Uneducated Old Woman Told Me”
by Christopher Reid

That she was glad to sit down.
That her legs hurt in spite of the medicine.
That times were bad.
That her husband had died nearly thirty years before.
That the new priest looked like a schoolboy and you could barely hear him in church.
The pigs were better company, generally speaking, than goats.
That both her sons had married stupid women.
That all her friends were dead.
That I should be careful about mushrooms.
That ghosts never came to a house where a sprig of rosemary had been hung.
That her husband had a beautiful singing voice, until drink ruined it.
That the war changed things.
That Hitler was definitely in Hell right now.
That she had had a long life and was not afraid of dying.
That times were very bad.

1. Is there any line in the poem that you would like to comment on?

2. Try writing a poem in the same manner as Reid. For example, “What (my mother, Mary Oliver, my high school English teacher, the retired army general) told me.” You can use a real person or make it imaginary. Since it’s Holy Week, you might even consider Jesus or Mary Magdalene or Pilot or Judas. Here are two short examples that I wrote:

“What My Grandmother Told Me”

That rosary beads should never leave your fingers.
That the best way to show love is cook a favorite dinner.
That Idź z Bogiem, “Go with God,” was the only way to say goodbye.
That breaking a hip at 85 might make you bedridden but not dead.
That a grandmother’s love is as important as a mother’s.
That coming across the ocean alone at the age of nine was no big deal.
That she felt she had to stand up in church during Mass and tell the priest what she thought of him.
That raising 12 children with little money was worth it when she heard my father sing.

“What Jesus of Nazareth Told Me”

That human touch is what will save us.
That all enlightened ones speak in koans like “what you did to the least ones you did to me.”
That the purpose of life is to find the pearl of great price given you at birth.
That if you get a chance at a new life come as a gardener.
That it’s good to waste money on perfume and other things of beauty.
That sinners and tax collectors are more fun to be with than keepers of the temple.
That anger at injustice is holy.
That telling stories is the best way to understand God.