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November 2, 2007
Today's eMo consists of a cycle of poems on the beatitudes, this Sunday's gospel reading for parishes which are observing the Feast of All Saints on that day. They were first published in 1998 in Blessed Paradoxes: The Beatitudes as Painted Prayer, a joint effort with South Carolina artist Dee Schenck Rhodes. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution, No further permission is necessary.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3

It wasn't that I did not know
about the poor. Of course I knew.
They are always in the paper.
They trudge out of town with suitcases.
They poke through ruined houses, unearth
broken teacups, half a doll.
They are the next of kin;
they lift the corner of a sheet.
Of course I knew. I only didn't know
that I was one of them.
Please pardon me. I cannot rise.
I am poorer than I thought.
Fetal I, who curl,
protecting what remains
of my soft organs
with carapace of spine,
but make no refuge, nothing
from myself to help myself.
So this is poverty -- it is so still.
Yet from its very scar,
a loving hand,
another's, not my own,
uncoils and lifts.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

It cannot be,
but is.
I cannot live through this,
but do.
Bleached by grief, wail
my cry gnaws inward,
lodges in the throat, lives there
(my only guest).

Spirit, warm my exile,
mother me.
With your soft fire,
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5: 5

It's only me,
now, as always, and unsung,
nothing much of which
to sing., Yet I expect,
know more now than I ever
knew before, of love that never
polls the crowd,
or honors place or pride.
Nothing to commend me to you
but your love. And so
the world is mine, held lightly.
It is yours,
it and I and all in us,
all yours.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6

I no longer clutch at things that are
not mine. I see that all is gift
and all is thine. A holier hunger
hollows me, a thirst for thee, a longing
to be godly, loving free. To chafe at evil
as I used to fight my good, wanting
all the world to taste the food
of shared communion under heaven's roof.
I will not rest. Your love
will fuel my own.
And I will yearn until
the world is home.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Matthew 5:7

My baby was hurt. She moaned away
drugged hours, arms bound (she might disturb
her dressing if her hands were free), pinioned,
cruciform, behind the metal bars,
and I beside. To touch or not to touch?
My touch reminded her of magic
mother power, my healing touch
of finger and of knee,
that keeps all pain at bay. It didn't work
today. She cried the more.

Midnight. Nurses crept about
and in and out: Anything you need?
Well, yes --
Thank you.

And then, a friend, a mother, older one
than I, came to stand beside
and with a soft hand stroked
my hair, brought oatmeal
in a thermos, hot taste of a morning
that would come.
Then, leaving it in pledge
we all would wake,
she went on home.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8

The heart: manifestly not sinless,
has ventricles, heart-wombs,
made to receive.
Faithful it bats, coaxes darkened blood
toward its brightening.
This is purification; with it we die.

Seat of faith, for Doctors of the Church
and modern publicists,
tied to feeling of which it knows nothing,
battered, without and within.
by its own hand and by the hands of others,
shocked by sudden loss, by fear,
sometimes even killed,
dead from fear of dying.

A new heart.
Aware that it will end, content
to have it so. A center unfocused
and undivided:
this is not natural.
Such a heart is schooled.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9

This is not war, and yet it is not peace.
The worried in-laws phone:
It may be too much work, or too few children.
Too much money?
Insufficient funds?
And yet, I'm sure they'll come around.
We had rough sledding once, you will recall,
And we came out all right.

But lasting strangeness daily seems more sane,
acquires a coat of reason, some new ease.
It now seems no great matter,
their own affair and no one else's business.
Philosophic rightness welds to it:
they now remember ancient slights as yesterday,
more weighty now than when they first occurred.
It now seems they were never true or lovely --
how could they both have been such fools?
It now seems quite a harmless thing to leave;
the common weal will not be rent in twain,
and any pain incurred
will be an Opportunity.

In careful cups of coffee, sipped in public,
Solomonic puzzles civilly discussed:
there are some things to be divided --
some records neither plays, but each desires,
the wedding china, and the kids.
Bricks of a history laid together:
a blood supply not fully understood:
first timid forays into common ground.

"This might be dangerous."
"Might be amputation, after all".

Can we find work again for love
in this sad space? Can homely face
and homely clothing in the closet
again betoken heart and mind?
Can more than fear cement us?
And add our home to earthly
sum of peace?

Feast of All Saints (transferred)
Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14
Revelation 7:2-4,9-17
Matthew 5:1-12
Psalm 149
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