Poetry has always spoken to me. Whether it is the blank verse of Shakespeare, the doubling images of Hebrew scripture, or the lyrics of song, popular or otherwise. But I had not found the time for regular reading and contemplation until a spiritual director on an eight-day silent retreat suggested that my spiritual path sounded to her to echo the 14th-century Sufi poet Hafez. It was easy to include reading his work to my contemplation time, and I have begun reading poetry in a more regular fashion.
Connie T. Braun of Vancouver has written poems closer to my own story than those of Hafez. Her collection, Unspoken: An Inheritance of Words, is dedicated to her mother in memory of her grandmother. Braun’s family story is one of movement from Prussia, along the Vistula River, to the Ukraine’s earth, black and blackened by the fire of war, back to Poland before finally coming to the mountains of British Columbia.
It is a story she knows from reading history and from little glimpses with few words told by her family, much in silence. Memories of loss, of seeming miraculous return, of the end of life rich with food, faith and family.
Some poems are very situated in the life of the Dutch/North German/Russian story, but many take us to places in life where we all go. Not all are memoirs or of times past. “A talk with my son about God” meets the place many churches and church-going people find themselves in, trying to explain why faith is real, why it is important, why perhaps even the faithful have questions that need new answers, “to be guilt-free of traditional dogma.”
Much to contemplate.
She lived on, and as I grew older I understood that she was content
not to story me with stitches of loss, although I wanted details
of her life to fasten her to me forever. So, near the end,
each time I visited her in the nursing home, I took away,
lovingly, without asking, so many questions.
—From “Polished Buttons”
Connie T. Braun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org