new Mennonite Life logo    March 2003     vol. 58 no. 1     Back to Table of Contents

Peaceable Poems

Given the current national context of a sweep toward war action, the following small cluster of poems offer in variously vivid and indirect terms an important potential for transferring the energy of personal wounding and pain into a discourse of art, rather than that of war. Muriel Stackley's poem presents singing and guitar-playing as a response to a mastectomy, and offers this call to music as a direct displacement of the option of more warlike or retribution-based responses, as invoked here via the myth of the female Amazon warriors who cut off one breast to better their bow-shooting prowess. Works by Cynthia Yoder and Wanda Reinford similarly if more indirectly call for the displacing of personal pain and wounding into discourses that have a strong impulse toward spiritual and even cosmic reconciliation, as perceived in the everyday experiences of eating, quilting, writing, and spending time in nature.

My Surgeon Neglected to Tell Me

that with swift deft movement
I would be initiated into the sorority of Amazons.

But MY bow is strung six fold,
pressed tight, snug, intimate against my empty chest.

I cover the scar with my guitar
and aim my arrow song.

--Muriel T. Stackley

Muriel T. Stackley is Operations Coordinator with Arts in Prison, Kansas City, Kans., an assignment with Mennonite Voluntary Service. She came to this upon retirement and completion of a pastorate at Bergthal Mennonite Church, Pawnee Rock, Kans.

The scoop on words

Words for God
are like our words
for ice cream: sweet,
delicious, amazing.

But when I open
my mouth to pray,
I don't want
words to hold
things up.
I just
to take
a lick.

--Cynthia Yoder

The Windmill

The wind that blows from nowhere to here

tips the blades, gray boards exposed
      under white.

The arms that lift, side and drop
      mix sky and water without thought,

so easily they creak their heaven and earth

And I, sprawled in the nearby field of yellow

think of how you

would have loved this place. I say it to myself
      as if you weren't here.

As if heaven had nothing to do with us,
      sitting on flowers in Michigan,

as if heaven were up near Pluto somewhere,
      and you, circling the rings of Saturn.

The windmill blades turn with invisible
      force, and this is how we talk,

your words like the wind, mine like worn,
      warped boards

turning to face you.

--Cynthia Yoder

My memoir Crazy Quilt: Pieces of a Mennonite Life will be published by Cascadia Publishing (formerly Pandora Press) in July, 2003. Crazy Quilt will be one of the first memoirs to be written about the Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite experience for a general audience. I have studied at Columbia University and received a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 1999. My writings are forthcoming in Mothering, Ladybug, and The Mennonite and have appeared in Parabola, The Cortland Review and The Sarah Lawrence Review. My memoir, Crazy Quilt, is previewed on my web site.

San Antonio Peace Coffeehouse

At Aldaco's Mexican Restaurant,
I order enchiladas divorciadas--"divorced enchiladas":
one enchilada with red sauce,
the other with green sauce,
separated irreconcilably,
proclaims the menu,
by the rice and beans between them.
Who could resist an entree so wittily named?
Or is the chasm the menu description evokes
a bad omen?

As I mix both kinds of enchiladas together on my plate--
a reconciliation miraculously quick and painless--
musicians and poets take turns voicing visions of peace,
straining to be heard
over the band playing outside,
its jarring, overpowering noises
invading our space,
unnecessary reminder
of war's deafening drumbeat,
drowning out all dissent.

--Wanda Reinford


"Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul."
                                                        --Walt Whitman

Unlike Spiderman
shooting out webbing at will,
I am no superhero.
Nor is the web
which connects me to the world
a tangible one
like that of Whitman's noiseless patient spider.
No, my tools are keyboard and modem,
monitor and mouse.
To click "send"
takes a leap of faith:
a gossamer thread flung into the great wide world.
Though Whitman is long gone,
my soul's hopes remain quite like his:
to form a bridge,
sink an anchor,
connect the spheres.

--Wanda Reinford

Wanda Reinford had the wonderful opportunity of taking a poetry-writing class taught by Jean Janzen at Eastern Mennonite University. She continues to write poetry, read poetry, and attend poetry readings whenever possible. She's a reference librarian at the downtown public library in San Antonio, Texas.