My valley is a woman unconsoled.
Her bluffs are amethyst, the tinge of grief;
her tamarack swamps are sad.
There is no dark tale that she was not told;
there is no sorrow that she has not had.
She has no mood of mirth, however brief.
Too long I praised her dolors in the words
of the dark pines, her trees,
and of the whip-poor-wills, her sacred birds.
Her tragedy is more intense than these.
The reeds that lift from every marsh and pond
more plainly speak her spirit’s poverty.
Here should the waters dance, or flowers be.
Her reeds are proper symbols of a mother
who from the primer of her own dark fears,
as if the caroling earth possessed no other,
teaches her young the alphabet of tears.
Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D. (Jessica Powers)
The Valley of the Cat-tails (1939)
This poem is as much a hymn describing the wonder of nature in Sister Miriam’s native Wisconsin and the beauty of creation that surrounded the Carmel of Pewaukee, as much as it is a lament for the Mother of Sorrows.
Powers, J 1999, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, ICS Publications, Washington DC.