I did not write or share my own poems other than whimsically until a time in my life several years ago when I turned to poems and poets with urgency and a deep need.–Tara Hart
On his gold-rimmed card, St. Gerard’s slim, wrinkle-free face gazes up to heaven. He died at 29 from tuberculosis, but St. Gerard was sanctified for helping mothers in delivery. Tara Hart’s poem “Patronized,” published in the Summer 2010 Spirituality issue of the Little Patuxent Review and reprinted below, relates one mother’s reaction to the well-meant but feeble gesture of handing a mourner a saint’s prayer card.
As a contributing editor, I was pleased to nominate her poem for one of this year’s Pushcart Prizes, awards given to work published in small presses. Its protagonist’s voice–both weary and sassy with grief–speaks a sincere reaction to the sentimentalized saint, who is clearly inadequate to ease her pain. The clever word play and religious imagery contrast and blend to create a poem that both cries out in grief and raises a sarcastic protest to sacred comfort.
Hart says of reading and writing poetry, “My perception of the acceleration of time and of the fragility of life was overwhelming, and the consistent practice of writing helps me create some ‘still points’ of appreciation and connection…I’m grateful when I read a poem or story and learn something new–the insight, the connection with the writer fires through me like a current. I’ve finally learned to ground my own writing in the very simple, ordinary truths of daily life, and somehow, sometimes, if I share it, the current passes to another person. This is deeply satisfying.”
Hart chairs the English/World Languages Division at Howard Community College, co-edits the HCC literary and arts magazine, The Muse, and serves on the board of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society. Her poetry has been published in the Baltimore City Paper and Welter. She lives in Columbia, MD with her husband and two children.
Pushcart Prizes are awarded in the spring. We’ll keep you posted.
by Tara Hart
Dear St. Gerard, You, on the card. I am
supposed to pray to you, etcetera.
Patron saint of mothers and childbirth,
you look far too frail to bear my story.
She came much too early and I almost died
And then she did, and–damn, boy, your eyes do look kind,
but blankety blank. O dear Sainty Smoothface, what do you
know about death?
It may be you bore things—like those whips and their scorn
and you suffered with grace and you had your reward, but
earnest one, let me say something right now. I
was wheeled in, arms splayed, with a nail in my throat
and tubes in every hole until they put me out.
Let me try again. Dear St. Gerard, you are too young.
You are too delicate. You are, dare-I-say, dumb.
I can’t believe that you, with your eyes to the sky,
is all that the Church has to give me when
I have lost everything—love, labor, lost.
Get me the round goddess, full of lines, laughter, hope,
To say Jesus, girl, breathe and I know, how I know.