Guest Poet Ginger Murchison

To the Sisters of Mercy

You taught us to pray, 
“Dear Lord, help me endure;” 
we were convinced, could say it 
with our eyes closed when we needed to, 
like when the kids were too much 
and when our husbands died.  
You told us stories of the saints, 
beaten, burned, eaten by beasts.
You called it “patient suffering,”

Surely your prayer strengthened 
those who married once and stayed
for good or bad, till death,
but sometime sooner died inside.
You must have taught it, too, to slaves
who, on their knees to whips, prayed
in churches built on spirituals to strength.  
Your prayer caught on, no doubt, with girls 
whose daddies climbed on top of them,
who wore torn underwear to school
and swallowed their own screams for lunch.

We were baptized in water; silent
waste lies at the bottom of the pond.

May, 1998

Ginger Murchison's Questions:

I am having difficulty with this poem's close.  I want to express my irreverence for the idea that we should simply pray to "hold on" in adverse times; I am convinced that such an idea fosters a sinful waste of human lives and have more faith in the human spirit.  But the word "waste" seems too abstract.  However, I don't want to end either in some philosophical pandering to "hope."

I have a second ending I like as much and like its reference to the rosary, but wonder if the end rings too morbidly sharp.

Those Hail Marys you would have us say
are beads on chains that filled
unhallowed graves with rags and bones.

I'd like any suggestions regarding the poem or its close from the workshop readers.

Ginger Murchison is a married mother of two who divides her life between Atlanta and Sanibel, Florida.  She gave up a teaching career in May of '97 to devote a full-time effort to writing.

Correspond with Ginger Murchison at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop