Challenge: Today’s Sermon

Way back in April, it was my turn to post the May challenge for the Swaggers. I had recently run across Cheryl Dumesnil’s poem,  Today’s Sermon” and thought it would be a great inspiration.


is slop buckets knocking 
against each other

and a towel cart 
squeaking down the hall

and grease stains 
worked into cracked palms.

(click on the above link to read the rest)

I suggested using her poem as a prompt in any way we liked–as a mentor, by lifting a line, using the title, creating a found poem from it or whatever.

Way back then, in April, I had a plan– a rough draft about great blue herons. But life has a way of revising plans and I got a bit thrown off course. When I let the others know I wasn’t going to be able to post on the first Friday in May, they graciously suggested that we all wait to post until June.

So, now it’s June, and time to post. This poem is very different from my initial draft, because, well, you know, …life.

Today’s Sermon

Today’s sermon was derailed
by the run-away train

racketing down the track
headed toward the gap.

Today’s sermon attempted to bridge
that maw between before and after

but was stung by a blitzkrieg
of ricocheting gravel. 

Today’s sermon was drowned out by
the long, low howl of the train’s horn

keening through an alien landscape
thin and penetrating and 

the tick tick tick of the tracks
constricting in the ceaseless heat.

Today’s sermon, taut and tilted to one side,
braced for the approaching curve and

the inevitable crash.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to see what the other Swaggers are doing with this challenge, click on the links to visit their sites:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Margaret Simon at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Make sure to stop by and see what she did with this challenge and what else she’s been up to. You’re sure to get inspired!

I am heading out of town to celebrate my son’s wedding (yay!) and will probably not get around to reading and commenting much, if at all, this weekend. Hopefully, I can dive in next week as we finish up our last full week of school.

15 thoughts on “Challenge: Today’s Sermon

  1. […] Molly Hogan challenged our Sunday Swagger poetry group to write after Cheryl Dumesnil’s Today’s Sermon. I created a collage. Sometimes doing this helps me focus and inspires creative juices. After playing with collage and word collecting, I pulled together a poem using the anaphora of Today’s Poem. […]


  2. cvarsalona says:

    Molly, the wedding is here at last and you were able to offer us a poem even though you are so busy. The poem is a beautiful rendering of raw feelings-“but was stung by a blitzkrieg/of ricocheting gravel.,” sensory images-“long, low howl of the train’s horn/keening through an alien landscape”, and the powerful last line-“the inevitable crash”. Well done. I look forward to seeing how you masterfully revise it but if you ask me it is complete as is. Enjoy the celebration of love this weekend.


  3. […] Hogan at Nix the Comfort ZoneLinda Mitchell at A Word EdgewiseHeidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little UniverseMargaret Simon […]


  4. lindabaie says:

    I don’t know how ‘real’ this is or if a metaphor for our lives lived all these months but you’ve made it move fast, like that train, to that which is ‘inevitable”. Solemn & well-done, Molly.


  5. Denise Krebs says:

    Molly, congratulations on the wedding of your son! That oncoming train wreck is a punch in the gut–derailed, run-away, racketing, “attempted to bridge that maw between before and after”, “ricocheting gravel” Oh, such harsh words. You be careful out there! Have a great wedding!


  6. Powerful poem Molly that train doesn’t want to stop…I like your “ricocheting gravel. ” And Cheryl Dumesnil’s poem served powerfully well for your poem—so visual.

    Congrats on your sons wedding, Enjoy!


  7. maryleehahn says:

    This out-of-control train is what the end of the school year feels like, what these political and economic and environmental times feel like, and oh my. The inevitable crash. Yup.


  8. poetrynewsletter says:

    I’m so glad you stuck with this poem, Molly. The personification of the sermon works so well. Wishing you and your family much joy!


  9. Elisabeth says:

    What beautiful poems – reminders that everything we encounter in life can teach us something, if we let it. Even the most difficult and challenging of circumstances. I love the refrain “Today’s sermon is …”

    Congratulations to the happy couple and much joy to all those who celebrate with them!


  10. bmagee10 says:

    Despite…life, your sermon poem is poignant, Molly. Congrats on your son’s nuptials! 🙂


  11. Wow, Molly! This poem is wonderful. Your powerful imagery makes fear palpable. “Stung by a blitzkrieg/of ricocheting gravel” is brilliant.
    Congratulations on your son’s wedding! Have a wonderful weekend celebrating!


  12. Linda Mitchell says:

    By now, you’re up to your neck in wedding festivities—hooray! hooray! I hope you enjoy some champagne, some celebration and the love of family. This poem is so well done. The feeling of movement, the feeling of being out of control and on the way to a crash. I’m sorry life derailed things a bit….but what a tremendous inspiration for this poem….loving that tick, tick, tick.
    Wishing you some reflective and restful time after the fun.


  13. janicescully says:

    I’m thinking about things being derailed and there is sadness for me considering that. The “low howl of the train’s horn” and so much in this poem I find haunting, as is so much in Dumesnil’s poem. Thanks for sharing both. I saw Kim Addonizio, Dumesnil’s mentor, speak when she was nominated for the National Book Award. I’d like to read more of her work, now that I’m reminded of her.


  14. haitiruth says:

    Great job! The best sermons are the ones that still fit even in times like those described in your poem! Ruth,


  15. Congratulations and joy to you and your family, Molly–I loved seeing some photos! Dude, this poem shreds. The sounds of the words racketing at the breakneck pace, the imminent disaster not patched up–oof. Let us be very clear that there is NO connection between wedding and poem, eh?! We should all let our less comfortable feelings out more–they make for strong poetry.


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