Everything Waits To Be Noticed by Carol A. Armstrong

These posthumous poems, written both before and after Margaret Keane became Sister Marie Michael, recall Emily Dickinson’s. The poet’s passion and love of the natural world are very like the Belle of Amherst’s; only in her orthodox religious belief does she differ, but even then she has a personal, often unexpected way of expressing Catholic conviction. One is reminded of the 17th Century Metaphysical Poets. John Donne, in particular, comes to mind because of the way Margaret Keane’s life and writing moved from the secular to the sacred. Although most of her poems are love poems, the early works depict earthly love and mourn the loss of that love, whereas the later poems devote themselves to the love of God and praise His manifestation in the Holy Family, while also struggling with moments of doubt and expressing all the inner turmoil and ecstasy of the truly chosen. The “nature poems” comprising the middle section of the book are transitional, insofar as Keane found God to be present in the fauna and flora, rocks and rivers of this earthly world; she often expressed her love of nature in religious terms that again bring to mind not only Emily Dickinson but also Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Cover by Anna Mary Mulhern, CSJ



Margaret Keane was born in 1909 to a large family in New Haven, Connecticut. The youngest of six siblings, she became an athlete-scholar early on, excelling both in school and in several sports, including track, tennis, and swimming. She also loved the world of nature and spent some of her happiest times as a camp counselor in Maine. In all creatures great and small she divined the presence of God. Like her older sister, she attended Arnold College, which specialized in Physical Education, and she later went on to earn M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Classics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. In 1937 Margaret Keane entered the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery. As Sister Marie Michael, she put her scholarship, passion for music, and athletic ability to good use at a variety of schools, teaching English and foreign languages while also directing plays and coaching track teams. She was a beloved and admired mentor of students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and had a special love for the underachiever and the marginalized. Always central to her existence was the God who was the inspiration for her life and her poetry. Sister Marie Michael passed away in 1981.

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ISBN 978-1-936482-13-9

Copyright © 2011 by Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery

6" x 9" paperback, 140 pages



Because not once, but many times...

Because not once, but many times
You kept from treading where you might
Have crushed frail dreams; because a light
Lives in your eyes and in my rhymes;
Because you have not failed a mind
That asks more than a friendship should,
And when you have not understood
Have trusted and been gently kind,

For me there is a gleam of gold
That no bewilderment may bar,
And you shall have the living star
That is my dream of you to hold.


Since you seek entrance
Again and again,
Come in, but walk softly
If you would remain.

Come in, but go gently,
Shadows are here;
Silence once shattered
Might startle a tear.

Ask no assurance
Having begun;
Know the word spoken,
Know the heart won.


If there must be parting, let it fall
Equally upon your heart and mine
And let us bravely say goodbye to all
That held us close, and but retain the sign
Of purer love, grown freer when we part
Of all that bound the flight of spirit’s power.
For you can send that love from your deep heart
Which brings you closest in my lonely hour.
Then let us go our way courageously,
With steady eye and hand, alert to find
New joy in searching out new destiny
In higher calling with a quiet mind
Separated, to God’s work appointed,
Doubly consecrated and anointed.


The little snatches of you that are borne from far
To this strange land which now is home to me
Are as a murmuring among the pines to one
Who listens for the voices of the sea.

The water snarls…

The water snarls
And beats against the rocks
And works its way in
Thru’ the mouth of a stream.
It learns to be calm within those
Narrow bends
And when its journey ends
In a deep, clear pool,
It is quiet and still.

My life rages and snarls
But my spirit, drawing it all in,
Is still and quiet
And clear as the pool
And as deep.


Like one who searching through a tangled wood
To find a way came on a sparkling brook
And leaned to drink and found the waters sweet
And bathed hot wrists and cooled her throbbing brow,
I go my way remembering one soft pause
And spend long days in looking for the path
That leads down to a little sparkling brook
Whose waters I have found so cool and sweet.


Out of my Egypt Thou hast called me, Lord,
Away from my idols,
Away from the fleshpots and the bricks and straw,
From the proud buildings and the alien crowds,
Away from the toiling under many masters,
Lord, Thou hast called.

Lord, I have slain the sacrificial lamb
And signed my doorpost;
I have partaken of the roasted flesh and bitter herbs,
Girded, staff in hand at Thy command.
Out of my Egypt thou hast called me, Lord;
Lo, I have come.

Now am I in the desert on the way —
Trackless wilderness.
I have pressed onward in resurgent longing,
Thirsting for Thee in oh, how many ways.
There have been tokens of Thy care for me:
Divided sea, and water from the rock,
And daily manna.

Lord, the way is strange,
And there has been no sign of nearer advent
To Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey.
Memories cling of small delights, known ways
Back in my Egypt.
Lord, speak loud again!
O let Thy covenant shine clear in cloud
And shaft of fire by night!


This is the zero hour; this is countdown;
This is involvement in complete destruction.
Expectant, semi-fearful, gripped in awe,
Tense faces, tight-clenched hands, hearts palpitant,
We have gathered near the launching pad,
Waiting the blast-off, glad of company.
Shattering thrusts tear selfish secrets through:
God’s grace exploding at the Consecration.

The fall-out flings an ever-widening ring
From those close knit to those all unaware,
Circles inanimate and sentient being
Hurtles through time into eternity.
And when the mist clears and the roar goes quiet,
There has been change, momentous, infinite.
Now for us all and for each separate
Existence cannot be the same again.

For truth long hidden has been blasted open,
New earth and a new heaven are outspread:
I am my brother’s keeper and he is mine,
For we are Christ’s and He is God’s.
His life stream invests my life and I am not my own.


In such a small thing, Lord,
You have been pleased
To gratify our wishes — can we doubt
That larger gifts you seem to
have withheld
Are ours in better fashion than we thought?


A common man, he never holds the stage,
But in his lifetime plays a silent role
In God’s majestic tragedy of Love.
Great action hinges on his prompt response
To cue from angel or from governor;
Yet his own moment passes unobserved.
No climaxes attend him, no applause.
His small part done, he busies himself backstage
Prepares the leading lady’s entrances
And casts a shadow for the rising Star
To shine against. And in his handiness
Shows forth the wonder of the commonplace,
And is himself a miracle of grace.


Love like this goes deep
Casting on common things
A radiance;
And in every word
A benediction.

Love like this spreads wide,
Embracing all who seek
Its tenderness;
And making every deed

Love like this grows strong
Finding nobility
In suffering;
And rendering every cross
Eternal triumph.

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