Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros: Poems to pray in a pandemic

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Poetry can give us words when we are struggling to find them, says a poet and activist.

When I cannot rely on theological or academic language to get me through uncertain times, I look to poetry.

We are living at the intersection of shifting realities -- a pre- and a post-COVID-19 life. We must learn how to navigate a world transformed by a disease that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives. But for now, pain fills our days.

Poetry can provide the metaphors to help us put language to what it is we are feeling. Poetry can tell the truth when the noise of the world threatens to overwhelm us with too much information.

When the future of church looks uncertain, when “normal” is no longer a part of our vocabulary, when we find ourselves confined to home with compounded responsibilities and concerns, poetry can offer solace. When our chests start to tighten as uncertainty churns beneath our feet, poetry can give us courage and lead us toward a place of peace.

Poetry can open up a way to pray anew.

As a theopoet, spiritual activist and relentless seeker of hope, I’ve been turning to poetry for much-needed grounding in these difficult times. The following poems remind me of the song in my body, of the realness of my being both physical and spiritual, and of God’s continuing presence and work.

My hope is that you will give them a chance to sit with you. May they help you give voice to your courage and discover new ways to speak to God.

 

‘an alive so colorful!’ by Ayokunle Falomo

Recorded by Write About Now

Should you find yourself asking more questions about where God is in all of this, I urge you to listen to Ayokunle Falomo’s poetry. He breathes new life into our uncertainty by reminding us that God is not done yet.

Watch here.

 

‘i come from women illiterate and rough-skinned,’
by ire’ne lara silva

Published in Kweli Journal

Silva’s work of ancestral knowing reminds me that everything we carry can be turned into song. Through the powerful verses of this poem, the language of the soul bursts forth as a song.

Should you find yourself struggling to be everything to everyone -- employee, parent, pastor, brother, sister, friend -- Silva’s poetry will remind you that we come from struggle and are capable of healing and resilience.

Read the poem here.

 

‘The Woman Bent,’ from ‘Did You Sing Your Song?’
by Mary C. Earle

Published by Material Media

The Rev. Mary Earle, a retired Episcopal priest, reminds me that the body is both where we bend and break and where we find grace and ultimate hope. Earle’s poetry carries me through on the most stubborn days.

Should you find yourself feeling ill or watching a loved one or congregant deal with illness, this poem will remind you that God put a resilient spirit within a body made of grit -- that our broken bodies harbor life.

The poem is quoted in full in a sermon by Gay Gaston here.
 

‘VirginX,’ by Natalia Treviño

Published by Finishing Line Press

Treviño situates the divine feminine in our everyday lives. Her work is timeless and reminds me that the divine lives in each one of us no matter how we choose to name her. Treviño and her work create bridges between this world and the other, on this side and the other, blurring arbitrary borders.

Should you feel that you need new ways of looking at the divine as a part of your everyday life, I urge you to read this book of Treviño’s poems. She reminds me that life is about connection with the most sacred.

Find the book here.