Introduction ~ During Lent (which seems so long ago!) we investigated the spiritual practice of imaginative prayer in our devotions, making use of our imaginations to locate ourselves in different biblical narratives. Following Easter, we are exploring how poetry can be a spiritual practice that shapes us and gives us space to breathe new life into our lives in a fresh and different way. There are many wonderful poems in scripture and many wonderful poets in the world to draw from for spiritual nourishment.
The poem for this practice comes from a new podcast with Padraig O’ Tuama called, “Poetry Unbound.” When listening to the poem, one is reminded of a poetic rendering of how God names God’s self. In the book of Exodus, Moses speaks to God in the burning bush and asks God for God’s name so he can tell the Israelites who has sent him. God’s response is, “I AM who I AM; tell them I AM has sent you.”
I AM is used 300 more times in scripture, most notably in the gospel of John when Jesus says, “I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, I AM the door, I AM the good shepherd, I AM the true vine, I AM the resurrection and the life, and I AM the way, the truth and the life.”
As expressed in the poem, I AM is a complete sentence. It is all at once past, future and in the moment. Yoga philosophy and teachings ground us in the present moment, bring our awareness to the here and now which is where the great I AM is.
Breath Prayer ~ Inhale I, Exhale AM
Today’s poem by Brad Aaron Modlin has a memorable title:“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent in Fourth Grade”
(You can listen to the poem read by Padraig O’ Tuama here.)
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.
From Everyone at This Party Has Two Names by Brad Aaron Modlin. Copyright © 2016 by Brad Aaron Modlin. Originally published by Southeast Missouri State University Press. Accessed April 30, 2020 from