Food for the Soul: 3 Poems of Marie Howe

Food for the Soul: 3 Poems of Marie Howe

If you’ve ever wondered how poetry can speak to the Gospel realities of our lives, Marie Howe shows us how. (No pun intended!). Below are 3 of my favorite Marie Howe poems that all speak, in one way or another, to my daily walk with Jesus.

Poem #1 is “The Star Market.” Think of Jesus walking into Walmart and discovering all the poor, lame, demonized, confused and lost souls that he has come to save. I dedicate this one to Barry Williams, who is our own Walmart missionary. Barry never fails to see the nameless folks of the Gospels every time he enters Walmart. And that’s when he becomes Jesus’s hands and feet. Like Jesus, Walmart is his mission field.

The Star Market

The people Jesus loved were shopping at The Star Market yesterday.                                                                 An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout                                                                  breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.

Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and                                                          hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:                                               shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if The Star Market

had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in                                                                   with the rest of them: sour milk, bad meat:                                                                                                      looking for cereal and spring water.

Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car                                                                     in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have                                                                     been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept

out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands                                                             and knees begging for mercy.

If I touch the hem of his garment, one woman thought, I will be healed.                                                       Could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?


Poem #2 is “Prayer.” For me, this poem speaks to the bitter reality in my life of trying to find sufficient time for God in my daily plans. As the poem teaches us, our plans never stop or have a pause. All the time, God is right there … waiting … for us to find the time for God. Which, by now, is gone again.  


Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important                                     calls for my attention – the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage

I need to buy for the trip.                                                                                                                                             Even now  I can hardly sit here                                                                                                                                 

among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside                                                   already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.                                                                                              Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints                                                                                               and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning                                                                                                    to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

Poem #3 is “Courage.” My take from this poem is that the four-and-a-half-year-old boy knows so much more than the dad with the three-and-a-half-year-old girl. What is Parasite 2? What should I be afraid of? If I don’t even know that … how can I ever have the courage to face the world without fear? Am I supposed to be afraid of things I don’t even know about?    


I’m helping my little girl slide down the pole next to the slide-and-bridge construction                             when a little boy walks up and says, Why are you helping that young person                                                     do something that’s too dangerous for her?

Why do you say it’s too dangerous? I say                                                                                                                  And he says, She’s too young.                                                                                                                                And I say, How old are you? And he says, four and a half.                                                                                   And I say, Well, she’s three and a half

When he comes back a little later he says, I’ll show you how it’s done, and                                                climbs up the ladder and slides down the pole.                                                                                                     Then he says, She’s too young. What happens is that when you get older you get braver.                        Then he pauses and looks at me, Are you brave?

Brave? I say, looking at him.                                                                                                                                     Are you afraid of Parasite 2? he says.                                                                                                                        And I say, What’s Parasite 2?                                                                                                                                       And he walks away slowly, shaking his head.

(All 3 poems taken from “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time” by Marie Howe)

Have a blessed Middle Sabbath ….     

Pastor Bob <><