The Words That Echo

A pastor sent me this poem. He said that it needed to be printed anonymously for fear in some roundabout way it might return to the people whose story it hints at.  I wonder for those of you who read this blog and who are pastors, therapists, counselors, teachers, sponsors, correctional workers, recovery friends … how many stories you could tell to grow the empathy of the world and to ease the strangling of the heart? They are all “words that echo” and certainly so are these.

The words that echo
In my head this week
From a mother, a daughter,
and God to a prophet:
“I do not know when I will come,
if they come, promise me
That you’ll keep an eye on my boys
when I’m gone.”
“My mother used to take me,
early in the morning
To crush tin cans. She
and another junkie friend
Raising money and
sifting through the food in the dumpsters.
At 10 I learned to smell my food,
I do it to this day.
Etched in my brain the primitive test
for whether meat was safe to eat.”
The voice of God to Jonah said,
“Should I not have compassion
On the hundred and twenty thousand
Who do not know
Their right hand
From their left.”
Break our hearts O God
For the thousands, the millions
That we
refer to as life’s collateral damage
Who do not know their right hand
from their left.


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3 Responses to The Words That Echo

  1. nanrockwell says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Maren, but what puzzles me is why the pastor feels this needs to be such a secret – if someone in his parish read it and said ‘I know someone who had experiences like that’, where’s the shame? I think sometimes we confuse pain with shame, and that keeps too many stories untold – Nancy

  2. Maren says:

    I think the issue is neither the pain nor the shame, but not wanting folks in the congregation feel that their future stories might end up in poetry shared with a wider audience.

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