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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines, Lent, and Love Poems

Today, Valentine’s falls on Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent and, in many churches, the annual 40-day season of introspection and self-examination that leads to confession, repentance, and the spiritual freedom needed to receive the joy of Easter.

At first, though, it seems ironic that a Valentine’s Day of flowers and candy coincides with a time typically thought of as giving up something - such as flowers and candy! But then, the colliding and coinciding can help us to see what they have in common with each other and this blog – love.

Praise God our Father!
Blessings on our Mother Earth.
We are their love child.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017 from PRAISE! published by Cladach Publishing

Love of the beloved needs expression! The highest examples of these come in the Bible, the trek toward Easter, and the love expressed in poetry.

You’re undoubtedly read love poems – from greeting card verse on a Valentine to the 23rd Psalm to the poetic lines of a romantic sonnet. As a poet or student of poetry, you’ve probably tried your hand at writing a love poem too, but “love” has many faces.

Take, for example, from my book Faces in a Crowd this prose poem I’ll explain once you’ve had a chance to experience it.

after reading Attila Jozsef

Attila the Hungarian poet, I really love you. Please
believe me before you throw yourself beneath that
train. The fright of flying freight crushes my reading
of your prose poems – poems poised with insight
and odd juxtaposition. I try to rescue the paragraphs
you pose from extermination, reeling as I read. What
can I do but pet The Dog you left behind, ragged and
muddy, ready to avenge your wounds and scavenge
the pieces of God you hid in my upper berth on this
looming train?

Ever since childhood, I’ve “loved” poetry, which led to my reading the best works of classical and contemporary poets as evidenced in the above poem and also in the photo on the top right side of this page. Once my tastes in poetry became more eclectic than rhyming quatrains, I discovered poets from all over the world, each of whom brought experiences beyond my own.

Attila Jozsef of Hungary was one such poet. After I’d run across one of his wonderful poems in an anthology of poetry from all over the world, I researched him on the Internet, hoping to find more of his work. I did, indeed, find many thought-provoking, deliciously worded, introspective poems (suitable for Lent) such as “The Dog,” but I also learned he’d committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train. That sad news stunned me into a poem pleading for life and poetry and, perhaps, for his forgiveness of those of us who have led easier lives.

Contemplation of our ease versus dis-ease, our lives versus death, our love versus bigotry, bias, boredom, and indifference gives us the stuff of which poetry and Lent are made. But the greatest of these is God’s Word of love.

Child, Child,

If God didn’t love you, no eyes, no ears
would weave into your gut, no
heart would arch into the inner soles
of your shoes, showing you where to go.

If God didn’t trust you, there would be
no joy to oil your neighbors, no love to
cover the sins of your enemies, no Good
News to paper the walls of your head.

by Mary Harwell Sayler from poetry book, Outside Eden, published by Kelsay Books


  1. Thank you for such a great and inspiring post! And Attila Jozsef is a true revelation to me, I've never heard about him before. Hope you had a wonderful Easter. Thank you!

    1. So glad you liked the post and discovered Jozsef! I've been going through my poetry books and hoping to introduce others on this blog.