Friday, December 2, 2016

Poetry Friday: Sanctuary

The Poetry Seven challenge this month was to write a poem on the theme of "sanctuary, rest, or seeking peace" inspired by the architectural art at one of Andi's favorite retreats, the Glencairn Museum Cloister in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.

For further inspiration, I also found the Museum's mission statement, which "invites a diverse audience to engage with religious beliefs and practices, past and present, by exploring art, artifacts, and other cultural expressions of faith. By appealing to our common human endeavor to find meaning and purpose in our lives, we hope to foster empathy and build understanding among people of all beliefs, leading to positive social change through tolerance, compassion, and kindness."

Amen to that.

Here are some of the lovely photos of the Cloister that Andi sent us:

All exude peace, but I was drawn to the last photo above, the one with the two stone chairs facing each other. The more I looked at this image, the more I was overcome with a strong sense of longing because the chairs were empty.

Having no other plan (my usual approach!) I found myself addressing this longing on the page, by imagining the world as if these chairs were not empty... and went on from there. Here is the poem that emerged:

another’s knees
were to sit across
from mine,

one of us might
drag a fingertip
along the window ledge

as if we were on
a train; one of us might
remark that the arches

—ah, bright arches—
form a heart; one of us
might know who poured

that concrete step;
one of us might lean
away from the chill

turning flesh to stone;
one of us might say:

and the other
reply: I hear
the wheels must turn

ten thousand times.
We would talk as rams
and sheep do:

all about the grass
and how it feeds
the wide world.

---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

If you're curious about the Cloister, you can read more here.  And if you need more loveliness in your life, here are six other beautiful poems on "sanctuary, rest, or seeking peace" from each of my Poetry Sisters:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Bridget at Wee Words for Wee Ones.


  1. I love how we looked at the same thing and went subtly different ways with it. I love how you incorporated the carvings!

  2. Sara, I think I've said it before -- your poems are a treat!

  3. This poem feels like I've eavesdropped on a monologue being spoken deep underground. I don't know exactly why, but that's how it makes me feel. Like it's full of deep truths but specific little moments, all at the same time.

  4. It is such an amazing treasure for me to hear/read these poems about a place I love. You've pulled out the same sense of peace that I find in this space, these benches. My favorite lines:
    "We would talk as rams
    and sheep do:

    all about the grass"

    Something about that just grabs me; the familiar, intimate, foundational communication of loved ones, and how everyday it is, but so, so precious.

  5. I, too, feel like I've eavesdropped on something very intimate, Sara. Beautiful. =)

  6. I am struck by an intimacy in this poem between the reader and the place and the characters to each other. And, the scope from knee to knee closeness to the wide, wide world is a gentle and important turn. Bravo!

  7. Ten thousand times. How will we live through it? I guess, by sitting knee to knee with our beloveds and by lowering our shoulders to push straight and true.

  8. I just love the conditional "if" of this poem and how you bring it to life so beautifully.... Sigh. I would sit there with you...

  9. Sometimes the mundane, everyday conversations are the ones that mean the most. I love the imagined conversation here. And Andi pointed out the lines that stuck with me:
    "We would talk as rams
    and sheep do:

    all about the grass"

    I love that you too wrote about the benches.

  10. I love that you imagined yourself and another into the poem. Who was that other? The reader? A friend? Me? It's like an invitation, happily received.

  11. Sanctuary. That is beautiful.


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