final-vows-1972
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
– Elizabeth Bishop, “Questions of Travel”
by Carolyn Martin

One morning, by design or happenstance,
you know you don’t belong. The nun-black veil
and A-line dress don’t fit. Old dogmas fail
to anchor who you are. Obedience
is not the vow that hurts since you can pray
and walk and work according to the rules
from morning chant until night silence soothes
the steady rhythms of a rigid day.
Nor is it poverty. You know that things
don’t count. It’s chastity that’s hard to bear
when your young heart has never learned to share
a passion or a kiss. Take off your ring
and veil. Lay your black dress aside. Unmake
the bed you made and dream yourself awake.

SOURCE: Mary W. Faust Sonnet Contest, Honorable Mention, 2015

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: After nine years of preparation, we made our final vows in 1972. Bishop George Ahr presided over the ceremony at Mt. St. Mary Motherhouse, Watchung, New Jersey. I’m in the back row, far right.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After 20 years as a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy of New Jersey, I finally realized that I had to move on. This poem captures the acceptance of that fact. I still have dear sister-friends in NJ who have lovingly shared my journey with me.

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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After 40 years in the business and academic worlds, Carolyn Martin is happily retired in Clackamas, Oregon, where she gardens, writes, and plays with creative friends. Her poems have appeared in publications across the USA and UK and her second collection, The Way a Woman Knows, was released in 2015.