In honor of national poetry month, today I’ll be featuring three poems from Marjorie Maddox. Marjorie is an accomplished poet, author, and professor whose work fits in perfectly here at Thinking Through Christianity. The three poems featured today all stood out to me for their connection of the mundane with the spiritual. “Focus” describes the conundrum so many of us face when trying to seek God in a hectic world; “Laundry List” turns the never-ending chore of washing clothes into an act of worship; and “A Man in an Armani Business Suit” meditates on the unexpected clash of sacred and secular in a busy street. Both “Laundry List” and “Armani” can be found in Maddox’s newest book, True, False, None of the Above. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have, and I hope you’ll check out Marjorie’s other work in the links below.
Be still and know
but before I finish a sentence of prayer,
before phrase links to phrase,
thought to thought,
the other slips in,
dislodges all syllables
addressed to you.
Could you not wait a little while….
No, though the spirit started to think
maybe it wanted to before it sidetracked
to this other sentence that snuck in like a thief
in this darkness I am
turning into even seconds after your light spills again
I AM THAT I AM
even that can’t keep me kneeling long enough
to feel your splinters in this impatient flesh
tattooed with unfinished prayers that somehow
turn back to the words in the Word waiting
for me to stop whirling between
guilt and grace and just
be still and know.
“The ordinary acts we practice every day
at home are of more importance to the soul
than their simplicity might suggest.”
—St. Thomas Moore
Shake out doubt.
Sliced mustard seeds
gather in creases of what you believed,
once. Find them. Remember the feel
of soft, the soap-smell of calm,
and smooth the fabric ridges.
Claim denim and flannel as rosary,
then fold and refold both
like church bulletins.
Remember to separate
thick from thin, light
from dark, whole
the permanently stained, but save
for next week’s pre-wash treatment
your favorite ways to wear
the dirt you’re drawn to
even on wash day,
even mid-cycle of such
necessary ritual cleansings.
Put everything away
in its own neat compartment.
Prayer for what you’ve done—
the diligently muddied, the scrubbed—
and left undone—wine on the sheets,
Most importantly, rinse and—
even when it resembles chore—
A Man in an Armani Business Suit Waits for the Light
Confidently toting a leather briefcase
a shade lighter than the well-done T-bone I devoured
last week at Maurice’s, he stops at Don’t Walk,
pushes the prescribed button, keeps reciting
as loud as my last ten PowerPoint lectures combined,
apocalyptic revelations, chapter and verse
of horse and rider, bloody plagues, visions, all
while staring straight ahead in his meticulously pressed suit,
past me in my foot-on-the-break new Saab, to the other side
of Market. He waits patiently for the right sign
to act, his mouth still moving,
and I look around for some ventriloquist
in jeans and end-of-the-world T-shirt
to continue the damnation/salvation scenario,
but it’s just me and the unexpected Suit
calmly spouting his proclamations at the 4-way
as he strolls a foot from my turned-off headlights
along the pre-determined path of other downtown pedestrians
clustered that moment between man-made lines
just before the light changes and the predictable
traffic of rush hour continues
the same as yesterday and the day
before that, and before that.
Sage Graduate Fellow at Cornell University (MFA) and Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock); Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (forthcoming 2017 Fomite), as well as over 450 stories, poems, and essays in journals and anthologies. She is co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and has published four children’s books including A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry and Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems, and has four forthcoming. For more information, see www.marjoriemaddox.com
*Originally published here in First Things Magazine.