Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner

who doesn’t think she is all that bad,
having kept the Ten Commandments
totally intact without going off track
like those Psalm One people who hang out
with the wicked or stand in the way of
anyone ready to do wrong or sit around
scoffing and coughing on a joint.
That’s not me, Lord!

No, I’m not perfect, but I do honor You
as the Only One I want to worship, and I do
say “God bless you” to almost everyone
instead of handing out curses, and I read
my Bibles and know a lot of verses, and
I mostly go inside whenever the church’s
doors are open, and I truly honored my
parents and never murdered anyone nor
committed adultery nor done anything
that might get me arrested!

Am I being tested?

Right when Your Ten Commands sound doable,
the tone changes and each priority rearranges,
reminding me of how, yes, I have stolen
time from my family and, oh, You, Lord!
And how I’ve spread a rumor without checking
facts, and how I’ve acted as though I don’t mind
being in a bind when others have too much or
when I gave such effort yet failed to be a winner.

Praise You, Lord, for having mercy on me,
a sinner.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, from the forthcoming poetry chapbook, WE: the people under God, to be published in September by Finishing Line Press.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Letting Judas Down

We all did. We all came from
Galilee and he from some place
down south near the City of Moab.

We didn’t mean to shut him out,
but we understood each other –
all being Galileans as Jesus was,
so when Judas didn’t get what we said
and when he called Jesus “Teacher”
instead of “Lord,” we just figured
he had a different way of talking.

To let him know we trusted him,
we put him in charge of finances –
never connecting that job to what
Jesus said about choosing between
serving God or serving money.

I guess he chose money – a lousy
thirty silver coins in exchange
for identifying Jesus as The One
we followed – The Life exchanged
for death at the price of a slave.

Later, we heard Judas felt bad
about what he’d done, but even
the priests wouldn’t absolve him
or take the money back. When he
realized Jesus wouldn’t be crowned
with anything but thorns, he hated
himself too much to live. He forgot
that Jesus– knowing what would
happen, still called him “Friend.”

Some friend, I say, but then we all
betrayed the Lord although we knew
He was more than a Rabbi, more than
a teacher, more than anyone’s slave.

by Mary Harwell Sayler


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Inventing The Blue Jay

by Mary Harwell Sayler
after reading Pattiann Rogers

Inventing the Blue Jay

First the calming
of heat into the flint
of an eye, the quieting
of noise into the raucous
rattle and chirr of a dark
beak sharpened to hint
at infrequent melodies in
a musical queedle-queedle,
then the taming of waters,
many waters poured into
the conjecture of a wing….
Darkness, light separate in
the cooling breast, the V
of every color – blended,
banned, absorbed. Male
or female matters little
until nesting time when
a grass-lined nest – loose,
uneven but concealed in
the forked crotch of an
oak or conifer – holds a
cache of greenish eggs,
brown-speckled, with the
promise of expansion into
peopled places where new
neighbors press tighter
and tighter like beautiful
blue jays banding:
colorful creatures,
occasional pests.
Forgive them.

“Inventing the Blue Jay” by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2012, first appeared in the Saint Katherine Review, Vol. 2, Number 3, Fall 2012, then in the book of natural and spiritual poetry, Living in the Nature Poem, published by the environmentally-focused publisher, Hiraeth Press, who later added an e-book version.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Living in Eternity

The Escape
by Mary Harwell Sayler

Day after day I think of death
descending on us
like that fish hawk on the pond,
the dark wings
towering through each window
of our house and settling
on the sofa
where we like to rest.

Some call death
an osprey, kindly and benign
with its sweet brown and white
seersucker breast and tail,
but they forget
the downward hook of the beak,
the prickly spicules on the feet,
the claws that claw through the
thickest cushions, letting nothing,
get away but

love and spirit.

©2015, ©2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. “The Escape” first saw print in the Journey’s End anthology then was included in the poetry book, Living in the Nature Poem, published by Hiraeth Press.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Prose poem on Lot’s Wife

This poem originally appeared in 2012 on the Bible People blog and in 2014 was included in the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published by Kelsay Books.

Prose poem by Mary Harwell Sayler
Lot’s Wife Visits Genesis 19

No one bothered to name her, not even as an infant when the streets intersecting Sodom and Gomorrah gave birth to her and held on tight, bouncing her back on the bungee of an uncut umbilical cord. She married, made a home, and brought forth future generations in her girls. The older nameless ones wed and started families before the Angels came, announcing unnatural disasters, but what did Lot think he was doing, offering up the other two anonymous girls to get the single-minded Sodomites away from unclean thoughts?

His wife hardly had a warning – only orders to flee as an unidentified Angel grabbed her hand and told her to hurry, hurry, hurry. She felt so tired, so angry with Lot for saying he would sacrifice their two youngest girls to the mob, so confused by all the commotion, but hand in hand with an Angel, she ran. She ran. She ran, and no one knows why she stopped: To ask a question? To drop to her knees? To see what would happen to her children and grandchildren left behind?

As she lagged behind the Angel’s orders, no one dared to turn and see where she had gone. No one dared to turn and ask if she could make it to the mountain by herself. Later, when Lot and the two girls reached the little town of Zoar and saw salt outcroppings dashed across the plains, they noticed one shaped like The Wife, The Mother, but no one bothered to name her, not even then, not even as the pillar of her community, preserved in salt-dried tears.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. For more on prose poems, see "Do real poets read and write prose poems?” on the Poetry Editor & Poetry blog and "From Gospel to prose poem" posted In a Christian Writer's Life also by Mary Sayler.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Prose poem parable

Children Sulking in the Public Square
Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35

And Jesus said:
To what shall I compare this generation?

You’re like kids, complaining to their playmates: “You don’t play right! When we played Wedding, you did not dance. When we played Funeral, you did not beat your chest and weep and wail and mourn.” Oh, grow up! When John the Baptist came playing Funeral, you said, “He has a demon!” And when The Son of Man came in like a Wedding, you said, “What a pig! He drinks too much wine and with such sinful people.” At least, that’s how it seems but seek some discernment and you’ll see some things differently – as Wisdom often does.

©2015, 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. The above prose poem first appeared in the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published in 2014 by Kelsay Books.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

How to go through the eye of a need

Entering the Eye of the Needle
by Mary Harwell Sayler

In the middle of a haystack, strewn
not with straw, but the distractions
of health and wealth and power,
lies the tiny eye of the need.

How can a non-seeker see?

A prick locates the point
of discomfort, piercing
the soul – the needle
threaded, knotting
our need to

©2015, 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. The poem originally appeared in the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published in 2014 by Kelsay Books.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Early Christian icon, the Virgin of Vladimir

Painted with egg tempera on a wooden board, this icon of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus has been treasured in Russia since the middle of the 12th century when the painting traveled from Constantinople to Kiev and on to Vladimir.

To the Icon of the Virgin of Vladimir
by Mary Harwell Sayler

Your eyes
bear the world's
incredible sadness,
your lower lids
into cups
that cannot contain
your grief.

Your mouth
the close touch
of your Son's cheek –
only a newborn now
but shown
as a miniature man
already ready
to comfort.

Did you sense this?

Did you feel your
heart steadied
by your Infant
and His
infinite hand?

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. The poem “To the Icon of the Virgin of Vladimir” first appeared in 2011 on Catholic Lane and then in the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published by Kelsay Books.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Manger Scene: the first Christmas

Manger Scene
by Mary Harwell Sayler

Swaddled in moonlight,
the night sustains its passion:
From the skies,
a blue moon seeks its mate,
and from the heavenlies,
a New Jerusalem awaits
the coming of its counterpart –
a holy city from on high, borne
by the full moon-
shaped mouth
from which The Infant cries.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. “Manger Scene” first appeared in the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published this year by Kelsay Books.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Virgin Mary: Conceiving God’s Son

by Mary Harwell Sayler

"Rejoice," the angel said to me.
"The Lord is with you, blessed one."

Yet I wondered how that could be.
Could anyone conceive God's love,
much less His Son?

"Receive the power of
the Most High, Mary, for with God,
nothing is impossible."

Fear left me then on wings
until my spirit, soaring, sang,
expectantly awaiting anything –
conceivable or inconceivable –
the Lord would bring.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Present in the Hand of God

Turning Handsprings
by Mary Harwell Sayler


"Give me a hand,
would you?" -- a hand-
some metaphor for asking help when feeling hand-
i-capped by lack of time on hand,
energy lagging behind the task one has been handed.


In Michelangelo’s creation on the Sistine ceiling, the Hand
of God stretches, pointedly, toward Adam’s hand:
the human palm turned from a firm hand
shake, thumb down, into a limp hand
loosely situated to receive a synaptic leap from Hand
to hand
as heaven and earth keep a hand
in designing this hand-
book to be handed
down for generations to those hand-
picked to hold the well-woven hand-
kerchief, handy
now for wiping ancient markings from the hands.


If I hand
myself over to Your keeping, Lord, will You handle
me carefully -- perhaps hand-
feed and caress me, O Living Hand
of God? Give me Your Hand
in marriage. Let me be Your Hand-
made hand-
maiden -- Your Hand-
i-work reflecting Your likeness in my hand-
mirror, hand-held along the life-line of Your undying Hand.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler. All Rights Reserved. The poem first appeared in the poetry book, Outside Eden, published in 2014 by Kelsay Books.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Symbols In A Second Coming: a poem moving toward end times

Symbols In A Second Coming
by Mary Harwell Sayler

on a tabletop, drumming
to music tapped
into this life we know to be
but always, all,
or only true.

How can we stop
the symbols in a second
with sounds and moving
pictures of what will be
beyond the scope
of Hubble or horo-
scopic thought and view?

How will we detect the truth
without rejecting what
we say
we see
we somehow knew?

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.

The poem “Symbols in a Second Coming” first appeared in Catholic Lane in April, 2011, then in the book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden, published in 2014 by Kelsay Books.

Outside Eden, paperback