A few years ago, I accidentally became a Facebook friend of a stranger from New Jersey who said she was sorry, “I don’t know you,” and “It would be all right if you unfriended me.” But because we both had a connection to L’Arche, I stayed.
Kathleen Maugeri is a retired Camden Catholic school teacher and principal who writes poetry that is charming, haunting, lovely and honest, echoing Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver. She randomly publishes her work on her Facebook page for her 326 friends and never considered doing anything more with it.
She is that good and deserves to be appreciated by a wider audience. As we begin the liturgical season of Lent with spring ready to blossom, in a year already fraught with turbulence, war and uncertainty, I offer two of Kathleen’s poems:
1.) “And so the rain / Washes / All the tiny leaves / And blades of grass / And stones forgotten along the road. / Tonight / The air is an orchestra / Of calling insects, / A world / To which / I am a stranger. / But I know rain. / My soul knows rain.”
2.) “The end of a continent lies here / Where land seemingly stops. / If we but look closely, land only / Lies under a blanket of water. / It is air, wind, draft and even breath / That moves quietly across a tired world. / And above it all, above the forests, / The laughing lovers, the still, still stones / The crashing waterfalls, the tiny clover leaves, / Above the braying elephants, the opening of stores, / the mowing of new fields, the hauling in of nets, / Above the clatter of dinner dishes, the songs of artists, / Above it all our breath joins the wind, the breeze, the air /And we can choose to send a shout of anger / Or a sigh of hope.
Most of Kathleen’s poems paint mental images of the natural surroundings of the East Coast with emotions that I suspect mirror those of many other poetic hearts. In Kathleen’s “And so the rain,” I heard echoes of Wendell Berry: “Sit and be still / until in the time / of no rain you hear / beneath the dry wind’s / commotion in the trees / the sound of flowing / water among the rocks, / a stream unheard before, / and you are where / breathing is prayer.”
Her poem “The end of a continent lies here” reminds me of Mary Oliver: “Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit / on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, / until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost / unhearable sound of the roses singing.”
Good poetry can entice us to want to read more. Great poetry can move us to silence, tears, joy, introspection or prayer. Kathleen’s line “But I know rain,” summarizes an experience of the weather but when she adds “My soul knows rain,” we go beyond knowing to being, from head to heart to God. Similarly, in her second poem, Kathleen clearly describes natural occurrences and everyday activities but with lingering, unspoken shadows of social and political unrest that may easily shift to despair. With two paths to choose, she offers the reader a choice: shout at the terribleness with anger or simply breathe a “sigh of hope.” Therein we find God.
Since Kathleen’s poetry is only on social media, she gave me permission to give you her Facebook name: CarlandKathleen Maugeri. Feel free to scroll through her posts and find some gems that help you sense God’s presence. Perhaps by the grace of God, her poetry will find its way into mainstream channels.
(Kathy Berken is a spiritual director and retreat leader in St. Paul, Minnesota. She lived and worked at L’Arche in Clinton — The Arch from 1999-2009.)