Wednesday 31 October 2012


They were last
To leave the womb
Lingering in the safety there

Softly kicking
The fretful air

They took their time
To stand and bear
The burden of

A life

The ever increasing
Heaviness of body

Dressed in fresh
Socks on Sundays
Smoothed into comfort
By the loving stroke
Of a Mother’s hand

And being young
They were swift
And strong
And unconcerned

Running bare
On the hot concrete
Of urban summers

Delighting in the
Tickle-fresh feel
Of the country grass

And many a late night dance

In their ageing
They are tender
Once again

Tired and sore
From wear and tare

Squeezed in the too-tight
Shoes of every fashion

Knotted and gnarled
And twisted

Taking pleasure now
In the bathing of warm water

Resting on the footstool
Of a day and journey’s end

The Cup

"Each morning we must hold out the chalice of our being to receive, to carry, and give back. It must be held out empty - for the past must only be reflected in its polish, its shape, its capacity." 
(Dag Hammarskjöld)

Can you drink
The cup?  He asked

How simply sincere
The yes of youth

And sure the hands
That take the cup

Holding it to my lips
Mouth to mouth
Communion adoration

Drinking of its sacrificed

Thinking nothing of the cost
In the greatness of my loving

It takes time
To become what we drink
And becoming takes its toll

Uncertain feet stumble
Weakening hands tremble

The cup falls
Spilling out emptied

And I am nothing
To myself but a bare
Naked trusting

That I AM the cup
Held in His hands

A vessel fit for lofty use

Dedicated to the Master
Ready for every good

The Wind

This is the wind
To be in bed with

Snug beneath
The piles of eiderdown


Times of innocent

Walking lightly
On the earth

This is the wind

Rushing down
The ancient chimney
Like Pentecost

Dancing on the fire
Of lively flame
Unruly smoke

Reminding us to be
More playful


It feels like a scene 
From a movie

Drinking tea
From china cups
Among the exotic
In a faded place

The air hot and heavy
The smell of sulphur

A terrible tormenta
Spanish for storm
Is raging

Unleashing hail

The blackest sky

Uprooting ancient
Trees blowing the roof
Off a shanty church

What an authentic
Pentecost might do

With scant regard
For our attachments

The sacred icons
By which we are
Connected to the Divine

Snatched from our grasp
So that we have nothing
To hold

Us back from surrender
To that which we cannot

(San Antonio De Areco,Argentina)


She took her baby 

from a silent labour
while I searched in vain
for a doctor whose nurse was doing
her hair again, disinterested.

She held her baby,
finding reason in the warmth
her body gave him
to deny, defy death,
then quiet came the tears
in humble abandon
to the act of God.

I try to imagine
this Tanzanian woman
deemed servile bearer
of water, wood and child
for a drunk man at noon

so soon to talk
politics and lesser

I try to imagine
this soul of a nation
unspoken, out of place.

I try to imagine
but I'm white, a man
too far to understand.


It doesn’t last long
Silence in a church
Refuge for the word weary
Briefest of brief


Loud whispered aspirations
Louder vocal prayers
Local news passed on

Between statues

She pauses in front
Of me
Thinking she knows

Smiling dementia

She is a book
Without chapters
Unbroken flow

Of words
Five hundred pages

A faded grandeur
Battered sparkling
Red shoes in hand


I hold her hand
Breaking the silence
Touching God

She leads me barefoot
In the Pavilion of Mercy
To a sort of homecoming


She leans forward
Into me

To pounce upon
My faith in God

And expose it
As a fantasy

In which I hide
For comfort

A  way of avoidance
The need of reassurance
But I assure her

He has long since
Ceased to comfort
Or crutch me

More a dagger now
Embedded in my breast

A wound in me that bleeds
A blessing

The wound of love


I went out in search of a Word 
To a place where no speech
No voice is heard

Only the sound of birds in the trees
Wind in the pines
A breeze brushing the clear 
Surface of a pond. 

And high on a hill above it all
Unsheltered in the bitter wind 
I could see and think 
For miles and years....


Blood of a stranger
On my sleeve

On the open road

The ebbed away life
Anointed brow
Turned pale

Fainting is not an option
The bitter air no issue

How peaceful
He becomes
Almost beautiful

In the wind
Sirening around
The rest of us

The hurricane
That is yet to come
Crashing down

His widow in the Parlour
Holds her soon to-be-born

Sweet expectancy turned

I want words

I want to say that
He was accompanied
And not alone

All I have is tears
Down my cheeks

And it is she
Who consoles
The consoler

Touching my face
So kindly

The dug-deep dignity
Rising up in tragedy
To the more

That is in all of us
When we least expect


He was trendy once
Star of the Holy Show

Great with the youth
And kind to the old

Being all things to all

God carved him
Into the rock
Of this place

And in his ageing now
He has the leathered
Face of a mountain


Ironing his own shirts
Or not

The housekeeper's day
Being over

The crumpled frayed
Edges of him more visible

Irrelevant to the worldly

But the old love remains
Waiting in the window
Of his eyes

A blessing for the vital

When all else has failed


In an old poky
terraced house

I lay myself down
on no-body's bed


One ear open
for the big black phone
that will clang

In deepest desolate dark

Heart pounding
To the voice

That oozes forth
from hell
at the other end

I hate phones

I hate the click
of another

Hanging up
Too soon

Never ever knowing
if I prevented
or assisted


The Relief

Right now
After fifty years
I recognize the relief
Of celibacy

They are old
With years of intimacy

He is frail and needs
To sit on his suitcase
In the queue

He might be Jesus
Taken lifeless from the Cross

And she the mother
Of all sorrows

The faces proclaim it
And beg the whole airport
To take note that there is
No sorrow to compare
No ministry more urgent

Dragging his jacket
Halfway down his arms
She rubs cold hands inside
The hot neck of his shirt

Cupping his weary face
In her palms and he remains
Motionless a victim

It is their chosen mode
Within the limits of choice

I would rather collapse
Alone in a heap and expire


Two doors removed
Measure of our distance

The intimacy between us
Not vital and not without


I sit beside the grief
Of your leave-taking

Short of words

Hoping still that presence
Has some meaning

Like the smiling lips
Of your welcome

The fullness of your greeting
As you strode across the Green

The unexpected hug
Of our last meeting

Things will never
Be the same again

And the seagulls know it

Squawking in the squall
That tosses them around
The heavy-laden sky

All poise useless
When the hailstones
Tumble down upon
The mourners at your grave


I love
Brief acts
Of intimacy

The back of your index
Finger feeling
My forehead and neck
For fever

Squeezing lime
Into hot whiskey
When with cold
I shiver

Your hand holding
My elbow to guide
Me to the other side
Of a busy street

Momentary touches
That do not cling

Enough to ensure

That I am
Still touchable
Still loveable

Before The Time Of Rest

Earth catches sunlight
Air the colour of earth
Ochre dusk

Desert meeting ocean

A time of Mercy
A quenching
And a going Home

The Bed of Consolation
Awaits day’s end
And end of days

But still there is
A Journey

Another hill and valley
Another sky and sea
Another road

To be traversed

Before the Night of Sleep
There is an Evening of Reflection

Before laying down
My tried and tested Body
Wearied Mind

My Restless Soul
Must wait with memory
As companion

And be assessed by Love
Before the Time of Rest