Composition of Place

by Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ

April 18, 2022

Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ, founder of


Each day, before we pray, be mindful

of our place in space and time,

truths our forebears couldn’t know.


They thought they stood on flat ground —

flat like my family’s tan linoleum map.

I walked on hogs and bridges and

radio wires symbolizing cities, all flat.

They pictured sea to sea, flat,

fall off the edge, flat.


We’ve flown past horizons and over rainbows.

We’ve seen our sacred sphere from outside it,

spinning freely in space. Held firm in Love (and gravity),

each morning we, too, hurl into sunlight

and away as evening approaches.


They thought stars marked the floors of heaven.

We know some stars are galaxies.

Light from one took 13.5 billon light years

to reach Earth. Because the Cosmos

is expanding, it’s already

over 33 billion light years away!


They counted time in Bible years.

We stretch our brains to grasp

our start in stardust — billions of years

of stars exploding, forming elements that

metamorphosed into Earth.


In their turns came microbes and anemones,

dinosaurs, mammals and humans,

communication, organization, art,

beliefs, destructions and renewals.

Earth became a garden in our galaxy,

a riot of color and design,

on whom our lives depend.


Today we mourn the loss of trees

and land, glaciers and breathable air.

We mourn extinctions of red frogs

and red-plumed woodpeckers,

plants and trees, fish and birds with

tongue-twister Latin names.

We mourn lives lost in fires and floods,

polluted air and rising seas.


No ancestor knew such threats.

If we don’t respond right now,

together and in force,

someday new creatures

will discover our parched fossils

and wonder why we chose to die.

9 Responses to “Composition of Place”

  1. Adrienne

    Thank you, Terri, for this poem. Great food for thought and prayers… especially the last line!

  2. Pauline

    Many thanks, Terri, for sharing such a powerful poem. With love, Pauline

  3. Patricia Phillips, SHCJ

    Thanks, Terri. We really need to act…you stir us again!

  4. Catherine Keevey

    Thank you. The new Thomas Berry place was dedicated this week at Paasionists monastery in JamaicaQueens Ny. A place to create a new story for the future . Very exciting.

  5. Dear Terri,
    Your poem is not only awesome, it captures the essence of Earth Day, Laudato Si and our responsiblity to protect our 🌍 .
    Gracias 🙃 Shalom, Mary💕

  6. Elizabeth Mary Strub

    Thanks, Terri. A great punch line. I mean, it packs a punch. Elizabeth

  7. Dan Hartnett SJ


    What a creative and thoughtful way to situate ourselves in time and ponder the responsibility that is now ours!

    Thank you!

  8. Rose Uchenna Nwosu

    That is a wonderful, inspiring poem. Thank you so much and God bless you.

  9. Thanks, Terri. A wonderful treat to ponder and appreciate. Mary