The National Catholic Review
Foley Poetry Contest winner

I know all this has been said a thousand times before and will be said after me.”
           —Nazim Hikmet, writing in exile after 13 years in prison

I didn’t know I loved
the wrangle of phones and human voices, rough, insistent
until I entered this silence and closed the door. I didn’t know I loved
this silence until the hooked voices reached for me. I didn’t know I loved
didn’t really know I loved the treeless prairies until green bars grew up
between my eyes, the airy sunset, and the moon. Didn’t know I loved
the thorny green thickets of my self
contrary and bear-haunted, until I took the straight smooth road
and found it strewn with death. I didn’t know I loved
black bears lumbering through my dream toward my sister
whom I didn’t know I loved
even though I’ve lost her now in the blind thicket and she
doesn’t love me any more. I didn’t know I loved
my mother until her rose-heart burst and bled
red petals into her chest, didn’t know I loved
the garden of her flesh. And you, my God
under her ashes so silent and cold, I didn’t know I loved
you until you woke every morning in my little stove
so lowly in your prison house of wood and flesh and fire
so eager and so needful of my hands. I didn’t know I loved
my hands—clumsy, tender—until they stirred the fire and found
these words.

Mara Faulkner, O.S.B., teaches literature and writing at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. She is the author of three books, the latest being Going Blind: A Memoir. The Foley Poetry Award is given in honor o

Comments

Lesle Knop | 6/23/2011 - 3:59pm

A beautiful poem. I am awe-struck, numb, by your words. God does not need me at all. God is love. I need the fire of his love.  How remarkable that we find love through the work of our hands. You are brilliantly sensitive to recognize what love is through emptying ourselves and the absence of what we know.

David Pasinski | 6/10/2011 - 5:02pm

Thank you... i will also look for your memoir...I'm glad for your students to experience you...

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