Sunday, June 28, 2015

Seeing the sunrise

Two men who wanted to see the sunrise would be very foolish to argue about the place where it would appear and their means of looking at it, then to let their argument degenerate into a quarrel, from that to come to blows and in the heat of the conflict to gouge out each other's eyes. There would no longer be any question then of contemplating the dawn...
     ~ Augustine of Hippo (from Sermons)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bog standard poem

I wrote this poem myself. It's an ode to a toilet, proving there's poetry in everything. You'll have to decide for yourself how serious I am.

Ode de toilette

There's beauty even in the humble bog,
it's whiteness, and the whiteness of the brush
offering its handle patiently.
                                               And stood
like sentries in their red and gold, wait two
bleach bottles, calm before their call to war,
to battle with our secret enemies.

Two rolls of paper on the other side
with equal patience wait behind the bin,
whose plastic collar splays out like a ruff:
how noble those whose whole call is to serve.

Black tile meets white wall with yin yang
accord and perpendicular precision.
Black the holy backdrop for the white;
the toilet's double's mirrored in the light.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

God exalts the humble not the right

A friend shared this with me today and I thought I'd pass it on... (I try to remember that I know less than 1% of 1% of all there is to know - and some of that will be wrong.)

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.
The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.
But doubts and love dig up the world
Like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard
in the place
where the ruined house once stood.
    ~ Yehudi Amichai

Monday, April 06, 2015

No longer lent but still borrowed

i thank You God for this most amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any - lifted from the no
of all nothing - human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

by E.E. Cummings

Monday, March 09, 2015


Troubled by an upsetting situation and worried about the future it may lead to, I paced my way home, trying to pray.

I used to be good at prayer. Back in those rose-tainted days that probably never existed. But these days prayer is hard and can feel like a kind of fraud. Like I'm pretending to be spiritual. Someone has said 'Why is it that when I talk to God they call it praying, but when God talks to me they call it paranoid schizophrenia?' Well, frankly, I find even the former can feel schizophrenic (and the latter impossible).

I managed, however, to order my thoughts and present them to Christ, whom I trust was listening - realising at the some time (as often happens) that my concerns are slight indeed compared to Syrian refugees, the Ebola victims or myriad other real sufferers.

Petition mixed with penitence; my usual spiritual procedure.

It wasn't life-changing. Yet I arrived home with an approximate peace.

Then, after dinner, I read a poem by DH Lawrence (I like his poems better than his prose, partly because Last Lesson in the Afternoon is such a brilliant depiction of an experience all teachers will recognise!) as part of my poem-a-day Lenten discipline:

All that matters is to be at one with the living God
To be a creature in the house of the God of Life.
Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire. 
Sleeping on the hearth of the living world,
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of a master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

I like this 'hymn to contented creatureliness', as Janet Morley calls it, combining something very down-to-earth - a snoozing cat - with mystical ecstasy. It reminded me that prayer - in fact, life itself - is not a call to resigned drudgery, but to contentment with the peace of present and full enjoyment of the wildfire that is life: 'yawning at home before the fire of life'.

There's plenty to worry about. Always. But permit me to stretch out like a cat full-length, long-bellied, exposed and ecstatic and hope for a better day - because I'm at one with the master of the house and I can still feel his fire.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A poem borrowed for Lent

I'm marking Lent in two ways. Firstly, traditionally, I'm parting company with a less-than-healthy habit or two. Secondly, I'm reading a poem, slowly, every day, and pondering it. It's part of an effort to live more deliberately; to inhabit the present.

Which is, in fact, precisely the theme of yesterday's poem. This beauty by RS Thomas (one of my fave ever poets) is a meditation on how the easily missed present is in reality our only connection with eternity.


The Bright Field by RS Thomas
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.