From the Dark, Cold Grime a Flower Comes


Spiritual Sunday

Dan Clendenin at the indispensable Journey with Jesus alerted me to the following Lenten poem, which should strike a chord with any of you enduring what feels like an endless winter. Even in Maryland it snowed this past Friday.

I like the many ways that poet Mary Ann Bernard shows spring coming with difficulty. Initially the poem gives no indication how hard it will be, what with Bernard’s easy rhyming couplets. Our dreamy idealism flows quickly off the tongue. Then, however, a line is interrupted by a rhythm-disrupting “(But),” and after that the rhymes often become half rhymes. The final couplets labor to emerge.

Yet in spite of that, a flower still comes: “It groans, yet sings,/And through its pain, its peace begins.” Or as Percy Shelley puts it, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”


By Mary Ann Bernard

Long, long, long ago;
Way before this winter’s snow
First fell upon these weathered fields;
I used to sit and watch and feel
And dream of how the spring would be,
When through the winter’s stormy sea
She’d raise her green and growing head,
Her warmth would resurrect the dead.

Long before this winter’s snow
I dreamt of this day’s sunny glow
And thought somehow my pain would pass
With winter’s pain, and peace like grass
Would simply grow.  (But) The pain’s not gone.
It’s still as cold and hard and long
As lonely pain has ever been,
It cuts so deep and fear within.

Long before this winter’s snow
I ran from pain, looked high and low
For some fast way to get around
Its hurt and cold.  I’d have found,
If I had looked at what was there,
That things don’t follow fast or fair.
That life goes on, and times do change,
And grass does grow despite life’s pains.

Long before this winter’s snow
I thought that this day’s sunny glow,
The smiling children and growing things
And flowers bright were brought by spring.
Now, I know the sun does shine,
That children smile, and from the dark, cold, grime
A flower comes.  It groans, yet sings,
And through its pain, its peace begins.

From Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, eds., A Guide To Prayer (Nashville: The Upper Room)

A note on the artist: The photo, along with reflections upon kingcups, can be found at

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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