Sinners Welcome

I’m home from church with a sick little girl, so I’m rereading Mary Karr’s collection of poems, Sinners Welcome, in lieu of corporate worship this morning.  Not the same, I know, but there is no avoiding sickness in this town right now.  Class attendance is down everywhere due to multiple strains of the flu and other viruses.

I read Mary Karr’s searing memoir, The Liar’s Club, a few years back.  Her story broke my heart, as it did millions of others.  I remember the red and black covered book flying off of shelves when I worked at Border’s Books in Chicago.  So long ago.  I picked up a copy of her book back then, but it took me a while to read it.

I was surprised to recently discover that the woman of this tortured childhood had published a collection of poems on faith.  Nary a church nor an angel (where were they when she was suffering through her childhood?) were anywhere in the dark pages of The Liar’s Club, so I was curious to discover more of her journey.  After a search at area libraries, I ordered this volume of poems, I have to admit, primarily for the afterword which includes Mary Karr’s first (I think) public words on her faith.

The afterword is as beautiful as the poems.  Mary Karr possess the amazing ability to be lilting whilst writing some of the harshest words (and experiences) imaginable.  That she now has light shining from within her soul, the light that can only come from God, is true cause for worship this morning.


Before my first communion at 40, I clung
to doubt as Satan spider-like stalked
the orb of dark surrounding Eden
for a wormhole into paradise.

God had first formed me in the womb
small as a bite of burger.
Once my lungs were done
He sailed a soul like a lit arrow

to inflame me. Maybe that piercing
made me howl at birth,
or the masked creatures
whose scalpel cut a lightning bolt to free me—

I was hoisted by the heels and swatted, fed
and hauled through rooms. Time-lapse photos show
my fingers grew past crayon outlines,
my feet came to fill spike heels.

Eventually, I lurched out to kiss the wrong mouths,
get stewed, and sulk around. Christ always stood
to one side with a glass of water.
I swatted the sap away.

When my thirst got great enough
to ask, a stream welled up inside;
some jade wave buoyed me forward;
and I found myself upright

in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that

and eat it.


  1. awesome, i really enjoyed that book of poetry, too! have you read franz wright’s poetry? he’s got two books — god’s silence and walking to martha’s vineyard. that’s a great collection, too.

  2. I will check those out! Thanks for the recs, Jeff!

  3. […] But she is also a poet. […]

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