April 26, 2021

By Sister Joy Clough

“I was thinking:
            so this is how you swim inward,
            so this is how you flow outward,
            so this is how you pray.”

Mary Oliver, “Five A.M. in the Pinewoods”

Buoyant or water-logged
upstream, crosscurrent
under waves, over reefs
in vast sea, open lake, bounded pool,
the swimming may be

lazy backstroke
thrashing breaststroke
streamlined crawl
heaven-facing float – even
that amusing upside-down and backward stroke
of fanning arms and frog-like legs.

Fear-free or frightened
under snowdrift, through tree tangle
gurgling between defined banks
or surging well beyond them,
the flowing may be
rushing torrent
braided rivulet over strewn stones or thirsty sand
muddy stream
cascading waterfall – even
beads of earthly perspiration
oozing from a sandstone seep.

This –
all this –
is how we pray.

Photo Credit and Description:
— Photo of sunset and lake: by Sister Marilyn Morgan. Used with permission. — Sister Marilyn’s description of her photo: I was on retreat at the Camaldolese Hermitage when I took these photos from the Hermitage Road. The property is nestled high in the Santa Lucia Mountains. The mountains rise dramatically from the ocean and are on a famous stretch on the Central Coast of California. I am always in awe at the view from the Hermitage; it is a place of deep silence and peace.

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  1. Agnes

    As Awesome the Holy One in all it’s manifestations. Thank you!

  2. Carole Temming, RSM

    Thanks Joy for your beautiful poem. Very meaningful!

  3. Carol. Mucha

    Joy you have captured prayer so well. Thank you for saying it as I have experienced prayer.

  4. Mary Pendergast, RSM

    Wow, thank you, Joy. Swimming inward and flowing outward…carrying the pain of the world. What joy!

  5. Judy Carron

    Joy, when I was young my mother had me take swimming lessons.! I was afraid but then learned the back stroke, side stroke etc. Your poem is so meaningful to me as a method of praying. Thank you so much. Judy Carron, RSM

  6. Jacqueline Dewar

    Beautiful, Joy! A lively description of prayer and life.

  7. Michon Rozmajzl, RSM

    Beautiful. Thank you, Joy

  8. Paulette O'Connell

    Simply great! Thank you

  9. Terry Maltby

    Thanks for taking the time to capture the beauty and mystery of what is so often just lost in the day-to-day.

  10. Suzanne Ryder

    I love that temple, Marilyn. Many thanks for the inspiring poem

  11. Jean Adam

    Joy & Marilyn,
    Thank you for the inspiration and dip into mystery!

  12. Natalie Rossi

    Thank you. Beautiful poem. I love poetry

  13. LuAnn

    Joy and Marilyn thank you
    Lovely photo
    Loved the poem

  14. Fran Repka

    What a creative way to write about prayer and call forth prayer in all of us in a way that deepens relationship with all of creation. Thank you!