Johanna Caton

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My Mother’s Body

I dreaded seeing it, but seen, I saw in a stroke
it wasn’t hers. Alive, her mere presence was rock
to my flint: when struck I’d spark. In the end I

blazed and burned. Now: no presence no fire.
Her body, like all inanimates, was only stuff,
human outside, yet oddly neutral, cool to touch,
slack, disconnected. Death’s surprise. Illness

had made her a sharp weapon—always huntress
of her life’s errand, but errant, hunting the wrong—
unreal—miscreants. She caught her children, strings
bound us and we longed for release: all of us.

Found by the risen one in spring, the one who is just,
released by her decease: quieted, soon to be earth,
she was shut fast, Other-ward, piloted, berthed.


I AM WHO AM will not succumb to naming,
nor will pain—no rim, it roils, slowly coils
and buckles tight: its power to surround un-
rivalled. Then speech goes dumb and gapes
at pain, it slouches off and roams the wealthy
world, untongued and stealthy, looking for itself.
Pain won’t climb white-knuckled from that open
wound, won’t go away—it stays, it stays.
Some pain makes even God recoil—like Jonah,
ranting beneath the castor oil plant.

“Naming,” read by Johanna Caton, O.S.B.

Johanna Caton, O.S.B, is a Benedictine nun of Minster Abbey in Kent, England. She writes poetry as a way of deepening her spiritual life. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Catholic Poetry Room, Christian Century, The Windhover, St Austin Review, Amethyst Review, and other publications both online and print.

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Artwork: “Funeral Symphony (II)” by Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, 1903. Public Domain.

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