Wednesday 14 November 2012

Separate Realities


The dawn
Of youth’s confusion
And strange awakenings

Astride the heedless tide

Drifting out
And down and out

I am betrayed
By wicked fate

To open not my eyes
In the light of day

To hide
With kindred souls
In shaded spaces

Apeing the ordinary

And in the quiet
Through my sleep
I dream of home


In these last ascending
To the middle of my life

I dream of change
In other worlds
In other words
It might have been different

There might have been children

To quell the aching
In my womb

This tomb
Devoid of life

Its only growth
A damned deceitful tumour

And in the quiet
Through my dreams
I dream of home
Of strolling pregnant couples


Some times of stress
I turn to the empty space
And its not there

A single bed
A single man
A man outside
In womanlessness

And in the quiet
Through my sleep
I dream of home
Of strolling pregnant couples
And children children children 

To The Quiet Come (Nairobi Prayer)

In the evening 

The barking dogs 
And screaming children, 

Drowning out 
The roar of traffic. 

And all that roars
And screams
And barks inside me

The traffic of my soul
The dogs inside my mind
The children of my heart

Are to the quiet come

In the steady fall 
Of heavy rain 

It’s easier to pray.

Saturday 10 November 2012


Love cries
Because it loves

Its tears selfish
And not selfish at all

It cannot bear absence

Not loving the one
For whom it would
Give its whole life

If it could be measured
It would have
The length and depth
Of tears

Floods and Oceans

For Love is water
In all its shapes
And temperament

And when I die
Do not put sweet words
On my lips

I will not say
That I am only gone
To the next room

I will not ask you
Not to cry

I should not tell you
Anything about how
You should grieve

But if I would
I should ask you to cry
And cry as you must
Until the time for letting go

And I would ask for the flowers
Of your garden

Cascading their fragrance
Like incense all around
About us as testament
To our loneliness and loving

The loving that is perfected
In all its expressions

Friday 9 November 2012


Mind opening out
In the wide and safer space
Of the deserted road

Soul slowing like a river
To the estuary come

Beyond the hill unseen
I can feel the sea
Numinous air rising

Let me plunge into
Its peacefulness and be
Ravished by its ocean
Ravaged by its waves

Wind whipped white horses
Softly trampling down
The darkness that besets the soul

Spirit soaring
From the baptised depths
The gasp for breath
That knows how much
I desperately need

To live and move
To be held by You
Who are my atmosphere

Thursday 1 November 2012


I'm told that priests don't have to queue for the Baths in Lourdes but something in me resists such privilege  and I go down as a civilian, taking my place with all the other men and wait. It's easier for men than women because there are not as many of us.

It's a very hot day but my time standing under the burning sun lasts only half an hour and then I'm into the shaded, seated area. There's a blessedness in waiting in common with others. Waiting and silent. Present.

Some men chatter with each other from time to time and over the distorted loud-speaker people are praying and singing to help us focus. It's an assault rather than a help, so I block it out and pray within myself. Sometimes my eyes are closed, sometimes I simply observe. This reminds me of the pool of Bethesda in John 5 - the paralysed waiting for the moment of healing.

As well as priests and religious the old and infirm get priority over the rest of us and it is truly beautiful to see the tender relationship between a sick man and his helper. Tender and happy.

A few young Dominicans, radiant in white habits, arrive and - without a glimmer of bashfulness - take their place ahead of the rest of us. Perhaps I'm slightly resentful? But mostly I think how good it would be for them to wait among the rest of us, to experience the holiness of it.

Dads with their little sons also get priority. They too are a beautiful sight. A young father holds his paralysed son in his arms. The boy spends his time looking up into the face of his father. Their eyes meet, their faces touch and the child utters incomprehensible sounds  as his Dad whispers words that are soft and gentle. Maybe funny words because they both laugh.

Though I carry everyone I love in my heart, it strikes me that I have left everything outside - priesthood, all my fatherhood - that I come here with nothing, with no claim of any sort.

We are every race and age and shape in this place. This is evident everywhere in Lourdes and it is inspiring to see so many ordinary, modern young people as pilgrims and volunteers.

A gay couple up ahead of me look somewhat vulnerable and I admire their courage. They are not in any way arrogant, not strutting their stuff. On first seeing them I wonder what two women are doing in the men's section. Their hair is very feminine but their feature are male & bearded. Everyone in the place looks at them at one time or another. The looks are puzzled, not judgemental.

What should I pray for on entering the bath? Words that come to mind are courage, fortitude, boldness of spirit. A parishioner said to me one day - "it's time for you to come out of the trenches. I know what you're capable of." Sometimes I wonder if I am an apostolic coward.

After two hours waiting my time arrives to go into the building and I'm taken in behind a curtain where three men are sitting on brown plastic chairs wearing only jocks. I strip down to the same vulnerable state. That's what I feel - that we are in a vulnerable state as we wait.

Richard Rohr talks a lot about the need for rites of passage or initiation for Western men; the need to be confronted by our own vulnerability in order to mature. This bath experience offers something like that - for me at least. Though I know I have confronted my vulnerability many times, nakedness is somehow more threatening than any crisis I've endured.

One of the attendants asks me what language I speak. He is a tall, young, heavy Italian who speaks very good English. It is he who takes me respectfully - as though I am a child or an old man - through the final curtain into the bath area, instructing me to face the wall naked while from behind he wraps a large, white, wet towel around my waist. He warns me that "this will feel cold" and it does. I have a brief, sharp intake of breath and shiver a little.

The bath looks like grey marble and has a couple of steps leading down into the water. I stand in cold water up to my ankles - like Ezekiel in the Temple stream - and the Italian tells me to take my time and make my intention. With eyes closed, nothing of what I had prepared comes to mind. The only prayer in me is "Your will be done!" Something is pent up within me - is it love, the unbreathed Holy Spirit?

Making the sign of the Cross I say "I'm ready" while the two bath attendants take me by each arm and lead me down into the water, first sitting and then back until all but my face is submerged for the briefest moment. They surge me back onto my feet. That which was pent up is exhaled and I feel like a dolphin or a whale breaking the surface. Suddenly my face is only inches from the statue of the Blessed Virgin which I kiss. "Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Bernadette, pray for us."

Then I'm out of the bath, facing the wall again. He undoes the towel, still shielding me with it as I pull on my jocks. The body dries of its own accord. I shake hands with each of them and say "God bless!" Once more back through the curtain, I get fully dressed and  walk out into the beautiful warm sunshine.

Needing to celebrate I go off and get myself an ice cream! Walking on air.

Next morning I con-celebrate Mass in the Grotto, a truly beautiful thing to be in that space, and in the silence after Holy Communion the words of Jesus come clearly to me, "there is one thing more you need to do." (Mark 10). The one thing more is that I need to go to confession, to the inner bathing of my soul. "Your will be done!"
In the evening I go to the Reconciliation Chapel which is pleasantly quiet. A few priests are hearing in the English section. The one I choose is from the USA. It's face to face. No screen. No hiding. Confrontation of my vulnerability once more and feeling that I was met, heard, responded to and reconciled.

The fingers of the fallen Christ have found their place in the dust of my humanity and He who rises lifts me up with Him to journey on again. Free a while and filled with hope

Eamonn Monson sac

My Dearest Friend

He lays me to rest
In the garden
Where dew falls
At dawn

And pines
That shade the scorching noon
Grasp the whispering wind

Where the setting sun
The stars and rising moon
Glance gently

He feeds me Milk
To still the child
And Wine
To take away man’s pain.

Coming in
He breathes softly
On my face

His tears
A living Spring
To wash my wounds

Speaking, urging gently

Rest my love
Drink deep and sleep
My dearest friend

Till we are I

YOUR ABSENCE (In Memory Of Maura)

White light shivers

On a black metallic sea

A mischievous wind
Chills the bone

And I like stone sink
Into the darkness

Of your absence

You are so absent
And I am so lost
And lonely 

Without you
My earnest desire

Is to expire
Retire with you

In the cool cloisters
Of a heavenly sun

To run
From all that is unbearable
run, run, run

Before the dawn
Breaks again.


In the end 
When there is nothing
Left to say

And I cannot pray
Prayers properly

With the finger of silence
Resting on my lips

May the Holy Spirit come
As breath

Breathing over

The outer whitewashed

To the shabbiness
Of my inner being

Whispering the Name
That is dearest to my heart

Delight of my eyes
Passion of my soul


The only Name
The final Prayer
The ultimate Word

Ground Zero

I emerge from under
Ground zero
A perfect day in December

An Arab
Sells water
To thirsty tourists

Hawkers always find a shrine
To eke out their own

I stab unconvincingly
At prayers that don’t
Seem to fit the pilgrimage
To which I am drawn

The De Profundis
Comes close to the truth

Out of the depths I cry

Cry being the more
Authentic and muted now

In contrast to the tumult
Tumbling in this place
On that day

As on the day
Of President Kennedy’s

We know exactly
Where we were
When news broke

And we circle now in silence
Watching for whatever
Listening to the clang
Of steel
A constant Angelus

Of what will be

The cemetery building site
Struggles slowly upwards

While the pain of thousands
Pulls and holds it back

The dead have slept
And go on sleeping

Survivors scream
In nightmares not deserved
An interrupted life

And all the while
The traffic drives
And joggers run

But all of life is marked
And always turns its head
In this direction

A Boy In Prayer

Soft and deep
The carpet beneath
Is a comfort to him

Head resting sidewards
On folded arms

He catches sight of
Purple petals falling
From flower to floor

Shafts of sunlight
Flooding the sanctuary

They are singing
The hymn he likes

I Will Never Forget You


Trust in God

Does a mother forget
Her baby or a woman
The child within her womb?

And he searches my eyes
Looking for some sign

We are singing
The hymn he likes

Yet even if these forget
I will never forget you!


At low tide
A beached trawler
Leans against the pier

Calm descends
Upon the sea
And life settles

To a peaceful evening

I am content
With the parting
Of tourists and


The leaving
Of the last boat
And we are left

To ourselves

Turning homeward
To conversation
By the fire

Dancing to the music
Of the story
Of our lives

Our loneliness and
Our loves
And the island


With our echoes
In the light
Of a full moon

On dark waters


I followed my Love
In hidden places
With burning desire
To be His silent guest
My head upon His breast

I followed my Love
By country streams
And island shores
To breathless mountain peaks
To hear His Spirit speak

I followed my Love
To His sanctuary where
I found myself in prayer
And longed for Him
To keep me there

My Beautiful Son (HOSEA)

"more glorious than the surgings of the sea, the Lord is glorious on high" (Psalm 93:4)

I would lean towards my son,
Stooping down to feed him,
And taking him up in my arms
I would hold him safe to my cheek

Kissing him
Tenderly, faithfully, lovingly

And raising him high on my shoulder
I would be proud of him
My beautiful son.

I would take my son fishing:
he would learn to love the sea with me
and the One who is more glorious
than all surgings.

And though I am no fisherman
I know my love for the sea
And though I have no little son
I know the love of God in me.


Stretch my soul

Till I am all
But pulled asunder

Two Godly hands
Playing upon my willingness

Squeezed to the point
Of breathlessness

Native notes fingered
A sound of rare beauty

Bouncing on delighted knees
And He the master musician

All bent upon his instrument
With ear intent


I will return
To the dust
Of the dry season

Kicked up in the air
By grazing herds
And playful children


With open eyes
Wide smiles

Voices that tickle
The heart
With laughter

To the river
That refuses
To give up its
Waters to drought

The trees that thrive
And those that
Simply survive

And the scent
Of jasmine
In the air of night

And the stars
Of the dark sky

That reach to the touch
Of the gentle and the humble


I am reminded 
to keep alive a sense of colour and light, 
the brightness and the smile  of life. 
The colour of Africa 
the flaming red and purple blue of the Massai shuka - 
its colour and its lively striding movement.

Colour reminds me 
of the kitchen floor at home when we were children. 
painted yellow in the night by Mam 
- yellow and dotted with many lively colours
it was our lino and our carpet and it was beautiful.

Colour reminds me 
of Dad walking barefoot in the morning 
His feet of lumpy purple veins half sticking 
to the newly painted floor
and the blue transistor radio turned on long before its time 
its piercing whistling noise driving us demented
until the gentle strains of “Donal Abu”, 
the news and the soft and haunting sound
of the sea area forecast.

I am reminded and I am grateful…