Sisters Twisting Beatitudes

by Cathy Wittmeyer

1. Blessed are the poor, the kingdom shall be theirs.
3. Blessed are they who are meek and humble, they will inherit the earth.
– Matthew 5:3-12

your pain         the thought of you      in pain
              invokes                        the words                     of an old hymn
seeping into                the grey palette            that is a fog-filled valley
               meeting the sky            seamless           the first verse               on repeat
blessed are they                who are poor in spirit                  troubles me
              calvinist revision           blessed are the poor          the poor
those pietists forgot                 the part about              the camel
              passing through           the needle’s eye            blessed themselves
in spirit                not in the text                       paved their own           rich path
              to heaven         not in the sermon on the mountain        but in the hymn on repeat
in my head       your pain brought the song back         you poor thing
              blessed with heaven           & I want more for you              more than heaven
the lyrics continue        the meek & humble         blessed too      & the reward
              earth                the enveloping cloud               echoes with applause
your suffering              earthbound                 the place where you wait
              in the line to heaven                your bequest                with humility
you meek one              some days        maybe you just get a little dirt              the days
              the pain is too much    to bear quietly             these lines come back             
blessed are the poor           you’ve got earth, babe
              you & all the other                   meek & humble          of the planet
the poor in spirit          have acidified its heavens        the ones you’ll get later
              that tumble in violent               storms             douse raging infernos of trees
knock out power          upend dinner tables     bury night-shift commuters     in blizzards
              & this soil is rank         with festering mine drainage   deplete of any stone
you might call precious            but it is yours for being timid             the poor in spirit
              thank you for not complaining            about your inheritance            sans diamonds
on your way to paradise           the one they carved out           for themselves
              your pain is entering               my own bones             no
it’s the fog        so thick & cold              it penetrates               blessed
              does the promise of a kingdom                        lift the cloud?
dissipate the mist?        make it easier to breathe?         my lungs feel ice crystals
              you’ve got the whole world          no            that’s another hymn
stay here awhile           sit        sing with me    these lyrics      from the mount
              you get an ethereal realm                     for being poor            
& strong of spirit                     that’s how I see it                     through the fog


Cathy Wittmeyer is a lawyer and poet from Buffalo, NY. She works in Dornbirn, Austria. Her poem “Possession,” received an honorable mention in the 2018 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize. She earned her MFA in poetry from Carlow University in 2020. Her chapbook, knotted, was a finalist for the 2020 Broken River Prize. Her work has appeared in The Tiny JournalTangled Locks Journal and Book of Matches among others. Cathy hosts the Word to Action writing retreat in the Alps. See more at

Image: Oscar Hernàndez