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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Inner Strength (04/20/06)

TITLE: A Wretch Like Me
By Sherry Wendling



One tiny woman
With a battered guitar
Hugs her coat in the wind
And steps from her car

A shiver shoots ice
Through her delicate frame
She’d not be here at all
If it weren’t for the Name

These maximum walls
Decked with gleaming barbed wire
Harbor men whose souls flaunt
Every vicious desire

Society’s dregs
Filled with cunning and hate
Murderers, rapists
And mob potentates

Drug lords and robbers
Yes, pedophiles, too
Will she dare to blurt out
Jesus died just for you?

Female guards pat her down
Heavy doors clang behind
The chaplain awaits
Says, pretend you are blind

Walk quickly, don’t look
To the left or the right
They’ll be ogling you, girl
Don’t let them smell fright

The clacking of heels
Down the long corridor
Sets her mind in high gear
Please, Lord…What’s it all for?

What can I sing them
Who’ve learned all they know
Broken bottles and curses
In those hell-streets below?

Will rage bleed away
While I croon them my creeds
Good example uplift
As I drone my good deeds?

Ah, this must be the chapel
With its barren tile floor
This sagging old upright
Hardly plays any more

Now the hallway is bustling
With shuffling of feet
Four uniformed guards
Prod each one to his seat

Ugh! Those slitty-eyed looks--
Three huge guys in the back
Make her want to crawl home
And what’s more, they’re all black

The chaplain prays Scripture
Has them chant some old hymn
Then with furrowing brow
He turns on a whim

Come up here, young lady
Put a smile on your face
And lead in our favorite song:
“Amazing Grace”

With heart in her throat
She tunes a stiff string
Then screws her eyes tight
And gets ready to sing

But something deters her
Some stirring within
She cracks open one eyelid
Her gaze lands on him

A stocky, young blond kid
In the second left row
Sits grinning, expectant
His countenance glows

The inmate behind him
Bores holes in her heart
His soggy brown eyes
Beg for one last fresh start

Her gaze sweeps the room
She gasps at the view
They’re not here for me
Why, they came to find You

New confidence courses
Through heart, voice and hands
One moment! she pleads
Let me tell who I am

I’m a good little Baptist
Right down to my toes
I don’t swear, I don’t smoke
I keep ‘shalt nots’ and ‘no’s’

I met Jesus at five
Was baptized at ten
The one law I’ve broken
Is to speed now and then

But I’m a worse sinner
Than any of you
I love to pray loud
Always take the front pew

I’m the choir’s top soloist
Beyond all debate
And I like folks to notice
What I drop in the plate

I’m guilty of what
Jesus hated the most
Proud and religious
Addicted to boast

She dives in her pocket
For tissue, and blows
Mascara runs down
On one side of her nose

Perhaps I am here
To learn something from you
About living the real
About all things made new

About letting my walls down
And being just “me”
And how, through my weakness
His Spirit blows free

So tonight as we sing
How God rescued the wretch
Thanks for letting me shove
All this junk off my chest

We’re all hopelessly needy
Apart from the Lord
So let’s soak up the grace
He’s so freely outpoured

Men leap to their feet
Concrete echoes applause
Voices rise in sweet harmony
Praising the Cross

The arms of one mocker
Fall limp at his side
He nudges a buddy
Guards watch, stupefied

Three big men walking front
Shoulders hunched, single file
Their steaming hot tears
Blaze wet trails on the tile

The sad, brown-eyed seeker
Tiptoes up from one side
Then another…Another!
Her eyelids fly wide

There was no altar call
No eyes closed, no heads bowed
Why, those black guys are dancing
And shouting out loud

Joy is loose in the slammer
Cana’s wine in the cup
There’s no party quite like it
When Jesus shows up

Guards empty the chapel
She packs her guitar
All this for one number?
And home is yet far

But wait--a warm hand
Encircles her arm
The chaplain’s eyes crinkle
All sky-blue and warm

Sister, ten thugs
Were reborn here tonight
Because you found courage
To walk in the Light.


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This article has been read 1371 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 04/27/06
A great story in these verses of rhyme. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The rhyme isn't that smooth, but the message is super.
Helen Paynter04/27/06
Fantastic. My favourite stanza:
Joy is loose in the slammer
Cana’s wine in the cup
There’s no party quite like it
When Jesus shows up
Jan Ackerson 04/28/06
Very, very good!
Debbie OConnor05/04/06
Wow! You certainly deserved this win. Congratulations on writing a moving poem that screams truth in every line. I feel a surge in my Spirit from reading. Great job.
Helen Paynter05/04/06
congratulations on your win
Sally Hanan05/06/06
This was really great Sherry. I loved how you drew everyone together is their struggle against sin and the desire for forgiveness.
Karen Deikun05/08/06

This poem was incredible! You told a wonderful story, painted the contrast between the small woman and the colossal task she was undertaking, and showed how our weakness is used by God when we are infused with His strength. All this and a perfect meter and rhyme scheme. Praise God for your gift!

Karen Deikun
Dana Cooper05/09/06
I am a nurse at a correctional and this struck a chord in my heart.Thanks for a great piece of art.
Jessica Schmit05/11/06
You know what's funny. I thought I commented on your poem, but I didn't. I always read through at least one entire category each week. I predicated this would win. It really is an incredible piece Sherry. Simply beautiful.
Edy T Johnson 05/16/06
Wow! I read this winning entry of yours a couple weeks ago, and was so impressed with how much you could tell us while keeping rhyme and meter intact! Now, this same winning poet has added a comment to my "hope" entry poetry! I am quite ecstatic and flabbergasted. Thank you so much for your very kind review! God bless you, too!
Edy T Johnson 05/16/06
p.s. By the way, my eyes are damp, and I have to tell you my favorite lines:
"Joy is loose in the slammer
Cana’s wine in the cup
There’s no party quite like it
When Jesus shows up"
Donna J. Shepherd06/02/06
Congratulations on your win. Very deserving.