Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I have been thinking about this idea of poíēma (ποίηµα) for a few years. It’s one of my favorite Koine Greek words, meaning a work, something that has been made, crafted, fashioned. It appears in the New Testament twice, first referring to all of creation: “God’s eternal power and divine nature have been clearly observed in what God has made;” and also referring to humankind: “We are God’s masterpiece.” If you hadn’t guessed already, it’s the word from which we get our word poem.

My husband got me this Etsy bracelet, and if I ever get a tattoo, this is what I want stamped on my skin forever, as a reminder to myself about myself, other people, and everything around me: ποίηµα.

“So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth 
of the ideas of God,

one of which was you.” 
Mary Oliver

Yesterday I followed my nephew, with his wife and five-month-old daughter watching, as he ran the Boston Marathon. I tracked his bib number online, and I watched the livefeed of the elite runners, those men and women who ran 26.2 miles in just over two hours. Nate finished in 2:47:51, which amazes me. I'm so proud. poíēma

My heart was in Boston already, for many reasons.

Others have written beautiful words, like here and here, about yesterday’s marathon, about Boston, about the explosions and the human spirit. The glimpses of poíēma in spite of awful circumstances.

I think of Anne Lamott’s three prayers: Help, Thanks, Wow. I’d tuned in at 3:00 to find out about the Pulitzer Prize announcements but instead I saw the first few tweets about the explosions in Boston. Minutes passed and more tweets picked up the news, links posted, pictures, stories. I tried to get in touch with Nate’s wife. More minutes passed; friends who’d read my posts about him running checked in with me: “Have you heard from him yet?” HELP

My brother talked to Nate’s wife, they were fine. THANKS

And yet, HELP.
And yet, WOW. There were helpers, there was mercy. There is still help needed, still mercy needed.

ποίηµα poíēma

'DSC03209' photo (c) 2013, Aaron

It is a constant struggle to keep my heart open. Some days easier than others. Yesterday, I wanted to be angry, yes, at the person who set explosives at the finish line. But even more at people who would conjecture, who would joke, who would cast blame, who would from their own pain and fear lash out unjustly.

Yesterday felt personal. Even if I hadn’t had a family member in the race. I’m a runner. I’ve been in a marathon and I know what the finish line is supposed to feel like. A celebration of life, of commitment, of family and community. For someone to intentionally ruin that… I have no words.

Yesterday felt personal. I’ve spent lots of time in Boston, most recently at a big writing conference (AWP). From the convention center one month ago, I watched people throng a snowy and beautiful Boylston Street, and I myself trudged across Boylston to a restaurant. Before that, I attended five 10-day residencies in Cambridge and fell in love with the neighborhoods of Boston. Watching the marathon made me feel nostalgic for one of my favorite cities. To have that city and that street that holds recent memories marred makes me sorrowful.

It makes me wonder whether the person or persons who inflicted this pain are actually poíēma. How could they possibly? Why would someone? Why? It is ugly and hateful and evil. Not poíēma, not ποίηµα.

Nine months ago, my husband’s cousin was killed defending his girlfriend in the Aurora theater shootings. For that tragedy we have a face, a guilty party, to throw our grief and anger upon. But somehow back then, I forced myself to see his hurt, to imagine what went wrong, went wrong, in his life to glaze him over. He is a marred poem; someone or something evil redacted what was supposed to be, creating evil instead of poíēma.

When the pain gets personal, it turns my thoughts and prayers to the people around the world who face the possibility of violence like this every day. It shouldn’t be like this. Yesterday shocks us because we aren’t inured to the danger and the risk of violence. Some are. It shouldn’t be.


I want to close my heart off sometimes, to rail in anger against the people who offend me and the ones I love. Against people whose words are small and beliefs tear apart rather than heal. Against those who hurt through ignorance and pride. Against those who would set out with intent to kill.

It is a bitter fight not to be marred or to mar.

To remain a poíēma. To see the poíēma in everyone. To grieve lost poíēma. To keep my heart open and my mouth quiet. To keep looking. 

Keep looking.


  1. Excellent writing expressing great emotion in a time of senseless tragedy. You are amazing,Sarah. I love you.


  2. ohhh, sweet sarah. you are so beautiful, as is this gift of your writing... i love you too!, mary