Kathleen Hirsch

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The Grandmothers

Their faith was in their fingers,
fine as spindles
by the time I knew them.
On cold winter nights
by milk lamps
working the threads of their Irish pasts—
wool for the lepers in Largos,
lace for the Infant of Prague.

Both had a weakness
for votives struck to smoky hope,
those fingers of flame
that patch the gaps in dim naves;
each an intention
raised to God—
for the son lost fighting,
the daughter lost living.

I studied those prayers
made wondrous by warmth.
In their skittish flare
I learned how uncertain
prayer must be—
a breath, a stitch,
nothing more,
taken in a darkened nave.

From these brief sacraments
my grandmothers turned
back to their threads,
working scarves and winter socks,
so many strands
in patterns I had no call to interpret
as anything but love—
All their lives, stitching up hearts
that would never be whole.

Did they burn all night?
Did they burn to nothing?
Did they die?
No, they never die,
the ancient mothers.
The work of their hands
sees to that.

Kathleen Hirsch, M.A., is the author of three works of nonfiction, Songs from the Alley, A Home in the Heart of the City, and A Sabbath Life: One Woman’s Search for Wholeness. She co-edited Mothers, a collection of contemporary fiction. Currently, she directs the Contemplative Writing Group at Bethany House of Prayer in Arlington, MA, where she leads workshops on poetry and spiritual journaling, and teaches part-time at Boston College. Her website is: www.kathleenhirsch.com.

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Photo Credit: “Patience” by Daniel Pichardo, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr.com.

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