To my Father
June – October 2014
I tried so hard to listen to their cries,
knowing that to hear would help my heart
to comprehend. We watch the empty sky
for rain. First glimmers – distant clouds – the start
of something more. We cannot see our end.
Our inability to see beyond
is no surprise. But if perhaps we listened.
Can you hear the sounds of children’s songs?
Their mothers calling them, the bustle of
so many homes? Can you hear the cries
of sadness – life, a river, steady, often
wild? We barely see the upward flight
of birds as they leave earth behind. I strain –
their voices are as distant as the rain.
What earth is this that beckons us? Well known,
but somehow strange. Its forms the habitation
of our bodies and our minds, the zone
of each awakening, the single gate
through which we touch what is sublime. To care
for it – who all our lives has cared for us –
is somehow strange. A child who blankly stares
when told that one day they will be a mother.
That we should be custodians whose hands
could hold the world with tenderness – this is
a truth both ancient and sublime. A grandeur
beckons. Tending it – a holy business.
Those who once were cause of many tears,
are now a source of joy for future years.
When time continues sometimes we do not.
The train has passed, the person on the platform
stands. Immune to us it does not rot
like apples in a bowl. There is no latter
hour when clocks will cease to chime, no anchor
for the clouds. A photo only holds
a face. Beholding motion is an answer –
a film recording new becoming old,
the images like genii in a bottle
released to wander every time its shown –
but these are spectres, only an apostle
sees the living travelling far from home.
Time passes, watching from the rear guard carriage.
Without regret, it leaves a failed marriage.
The stars remain in their oblivion,
although they visit us in later times,
the light their delegation. Here upon
our houses and our fields they come to shine.
These emissaries, long remaining at
their posts, awakening – prepared themselves
for distant lands. So great is this, a matter
that requires our hearts – to cross the worlds
to find our birthplace in the night. We pause.
What of the great oblivion from which
they all emerge? Has life a hidden cause?
The night has swallowed all that it enriched.
The kingdoms of the stars will pass, each crown
will fall, like ripened fruit upon the ground.
The birds approach the evening carefully.
They know the sun will fade – they’ve seen
it happen many times before. The trees
begin to shine, their wicks are lit, their green
a host of aural fire. Prudently
the birds prepare a torch to help them through.
They understand it is a luxury –
the time of light. There’s little they can do
to compensate for loss. Except this thing –
to sing about the beauty of the day
and lose themselves in this as night begins,
and from within release another ray
of their serenity, that holds them fast
till stars appear, replacing light that’s past.
The beauty of the sky is singleness,
a blank canvas of blue. Simplicity.
A surface without depth, and yet a depth
like that of eyes. An elasticity
is needed, language suitable is hard
to find. Equations formulated to
describe the world reflect, as in a shard
an element or two of one great truth.
Some have such elegance, in those brief
strokes upon a page a beauty is
laid bare and great profundity achieved.
The sky is both of these. A boundless gift
that in one symbol is described. A dye
that artists use to plumb incarnate eyes.
Once or twice should be enough, for when
we see the truth what more is there to see?
A flash of sunlight blinds as we descend
a bush path lined with trees, a canopy
of summer growth outlines the distant cloud.
Again the sunlight blinds. So unforeseen,
reflections relayed from the leaves allowing
us the briefest glimpse. Amongst the green
the flash of recognition – here, the place
of habitation, only here. The earth
is where you come to be, the house
of your infinity. An item’s worth
depends upon its rarity. Espoused,
the King has crafted a pure golden ring,
at times we see it flash in everything.
A gleaming sphere of beauty, born of pain.
How many years have past since you, a jewel
of life, began? I think you have remained
to give us hope. The hand of time that rules
is without mercy. All that’s beautiful,
like glowing autumn, fades. But you increase.
Like landscapes after snow, all that is cruel,
though it’s felt, becomes a deeper peace.
This you teach us, patiently enduring
while the sun returns day after day.
Perfection comes. The night the dawn endues.
Transfigured sorrow shines its healing rays.
The oyster’s suffering creates a pearl,
a lustrous jewel – our living turquoise world.
You seemed to be the one I thought you were,
as often on a winter day the sun
appears. What is, is not what we infer
from past eventualities. The sum
is less than what experience unfolds.
Pale and powerless – the yellow disk
that hovers, little help from bitter cold.
The things we know are tempered by this risk –
that all that’s certain is uncertainty.
The sun has risen in the winter sky,
reminding us of our mortality.
We are and are not as we meet the eye.
But still, each is as changeless as the sun,
as every figure multiplied by one.
It’s right, I think, the placement of the sky.
The pebbles on the forest floor reflect
the winter sun. A thousand shadows lie
beneath the silent trees where light dissects
the canopy. A tiny stream is shot
with hints of blue. The world terrestrial
is held fast like a sail, a thread of cotton
light enough to keep it there. A shell
contains a living being, the sea surrounds.
Is it the presence of the atmosphere
that makes the world alive? Its frailty sounds
in rustling leaves. Above, the sky is clear.
As oceans move according to the moon,
we’re drawn to open windows in our room.
Across the water was your nascency.
We shared the passing clouds. When we began
to love no sign was there but gentle company
of minds. And soon enough the evening sang.
As train tracks, always parallel, extend
towards the distant sky, converging as
they near, so is the life we share. The end
is nearer now, where two is one, and last
is first. The water flows beneath the bridge
that on a winter day was strewn with flowers.
A little chapel made of wood was privilege
to our vows, and aided us with power
supernatural to live as one,
as sunshine emanating from the sun.
I am the one I was. And you, you are
the same. The sun that sets today is shining
in another land. And here the stars
skim over what remains. In over times
we dreamed of other times. And now they are,
and we are what we were. The earth sinks deeper.
It’s difficult to hold it all – the far-off
and the near, the weight of sky so steep.
The constellations’ paths – predictable,
inscrutable, returning origins
to origins, while they, immutable,
continue on their way – we can’t begin
to understand. What was is now I am,
the world eternally as it began.
A welcome visitor – the sun on winter
afternoons. When clouds demand attention
we congregate within. A lonely listener
to the wind – a bird in flight – unmentioned
passes by. The sky is always. Light
and darkness alternate upon the ground.
And now, it left behind, awaiting night,
I settle in a chair. The soothing sound
of footsteps on a wooden floor, and soon
the fellowship of friends. The sky outside
retreats behind the cloud. The quarter moon,
dissolving in the air, remains, denied
recession into origin, a sail,
a pure note in an Ionian scale.
I am and am not who I think I am.
The sun that sets today will rise again.
We all continue, though the years like sand,
windswept, obscure the image that remains.
I am and am not who I think I am.
The setting sun is nearer now than then.
We cease, and like the froth left on the sand,
the wave retreats and does not come again.
I am not who I think I am. The sun
obscures the features of the land, the dawn
impoverished sky has only room for one,
each eye, a witness to the coming morning.
You are and were and will be – nothing is
apart from your most solitary bliss.
Who are they speaking to – the magpies before dawn?
My silence has no hint of such. The nameless
is – declared in subtle song, its law
in fluid reasoning. Is prayer as changeless
as the dawn itself? Creation’s echo?
The silent stars observe another age.
A wave approaches. Evening’s Lectio
Divina births the time of living praise.
And I? A lonely tree, immovable
in the incoming tide? A heart of stone?
Just give it time. Among the scattered pebbles
lizards wait for day. They’re not alone.
The sun ascends. Look, there upon the rock
a lizard bathes. Warmth leaves a door unlocked.
As time departs from us we feel no breeze.
Its destiny is other lives, and in
its haste a person incomplete it leaves
behind. We’d think we’d notice – here within
we feel the march of days, the sunsets set
within our souls, the rainy afternoons
that flow like rivers. These without regret
are lost from consciousness. It must be soon –
the time when every sun will set, and waves
that reach the shore will rest upon the sand.
But unbeknown to us a grassy grave
awaits our time. As shadows cannot stand,
each borne by unseen winds across the fields,
existence leaves all that we thought was real.
Tomorrow comes. Somehow we are prepared.
Trees grow towards the light. Above the formless
deep the Spirit broods. At least we’re spared
anxiety – to think this way. At dawn
the blackbird sings. But often we can barely
see the line of waiting trees, nor sense
the hidden sun. What hope – when life unfairly
shifts? Our frailty is our one defense.
A feather is as light as air, and yet
it lifts a bird. The grip of winter fails
before the bud. A destiny is set.
A fleet of ships approaches in full sail.
The face I cannot see is like the one
beyond the trees, where day has just begun.
His meaning – this we came to understand.
The dew topped branches shivered in the wind.
The hills returned, the contours of the land
were marked by dawn. When what is good begins
all is not good. Not far away the ground
is torn, a cloud of dust ascends, a thunder
rips the air. Man’s price assigned. The sound
of plunder. Eden lies east of the sun,
beyond our reach. And yet I see its image
here among the rolling hills, the wheat
tipped fields, the faces of the cows. To pillage
this a monumental crime. His feet
have wandered on this earth, and once, pinned to
a tree, drew pain until the sky was blue.
The name of the hill on the property of Cliff Wallace, where the Maules Creek protest camp was situated.
At first I thought it was the wind, approaching
in the trees. Within a darkened room
the mysteries of the world converge, encroaching
on our dreams – an aural wave, abloom.
Alive within the texture of the word,
a man ascends the summit near the sea.
He bows, believing that his voice is heard.
What was withheld is given. Eternity
is grasped by minds attentive to its sound.
Outside my room I recognized the imprint
of the sea. A darkened sky had found
me there, and like a wave that breaks within
a line of sand, the sound of heavy rain
reminded me that meaning comes untamed.
This afternoon a bird most beautiful
is singing in the springtime trees. The sounds
of turtledoves nearby disperse until
its notes remain like ringing bells. The ground
from which the trees emerge is bountiful,
the sky is clear, the sun has graced the air
with hope. The music is immeasurable
that sweetly flourishes above us there.
From spring to spring it sounds, alighting in
our time. A ray of sun at rest upon
the leaves is silently serene, and brings
us joy. But this serenity of song,
that bubbles up like water from a spring,
is token of a joy in everything.
Are these the marks of our humanity?
Rooted here, the sky our canopy.
Pathetic and profound, a destiny
inscribed in sand. Our true identity
is undefined. Our brother animals
are nearer to their origins, at ease
in less contested space. Untamable,
our consciousness, its wild rivers cease
only in death. Is inhumanity
the definition of our race? Our eyes
opaque? The thawing ice sets water free,
the buds appear, the earth echoes the sky.
To be the one clothed in humility
is our uniqueness and our destiny.
I am a servant of the King. He called
me once and still I follow. Like the swiftest
stream life carries us. The Western World,
so used to drought, at times has manifest
the inner surge. And this I know and gladly,
when his providence arranged it thus,
my stream combined with others here that madly
coursed towards the sea. But now I must
acknowledge life’s strange destiny. An ancient
vine that shares a common root will sometimes
spread beyond the fence into adjacent
fields. What sends it there? The radiant sun,
the steady rain, the hands that cultivate
are wise, and wildest grafts domesticate.
Within there’s room for silence, light and air.
An open space where everything and nothing
dwell, where the material can share
the immaterial, a space where something
emptying lets hidden things be seen.
Its windows are the face of different worlds
that picture what our history might have been
if we had listened to the voice that called
forth this from nothingness. But high above
the painted walls the light of afternoon
is streaming, lighting on us like a dove.
The wind outside can never reach this room.
In silent spaces radiance unseen
can resurrect a world that might have been.
A Franciscan church in Waverly, Sydney
I woke aware. I lay that morning in
another land. The summer sun had yet
to breach the window of the room. My fingers
felt the coolness of the dawn. The setting
stars delayed. Within I felt I was
a person other than I am – the noble
trunk of my identity, its lost
meridian displayed. Remarkable –
the person who inhabits I. A poise,
a serious intent, a strength unflinching –
this is what we are beyond the noise.
The spirit glides, wings folded like a finch.
A new ascendancy – as stars at night
replace the frail certainties of light.
I hesitate to speak of what is near,
an emptiness where meaning should be found,
within the veil the face has disappeared.
Above the distant hills a line of cloud,
transfigured in the light of afternoon,
appears suspended in the flow of time.
Inhabitants of distance seem to bloom
while imminence to winter has inclined.
Saint Patrick prayed for meaning all around –
before, behind, beneath, within – the Christ
enfolding everything. On holy ground
a prophet hides his face. The soul enticed
by desert finds Him there – in solitude
a flame, the ordinary things endued.
A desert has its own ecology.
As delicate as lace, its cycles of
renewal. Claps of thunder, rain so free,
and then the years of silence. Soon what was
is nothing but a memory. Life endures
in paths of ants, the subtleties of nature
written small. A lonely hawk pursues
a flicker in the scrub. It has a stature,
this inalienable life, the stark
perfection of a flower and the sky.
Each mirror images – a sunlit spark
imagines all. The lonely bird shall die.
The landscape, dotted here and there by stones,
an echo here of our eternal home.
The photo shows you trying to shake his hand
while he, with eyes elsewhere, has placed his hand
upon your head. You’re just a child, adorned
with markings of your tribe, while he, adorned
in suit and tie, is ruler of the land.
The privilege to which a man is born
determines much in this great southern land.
The scene was set before the child was born.
But privilege is more than suit and tie.
The colours of the earth upon his skin
remind us of the place to which we’re tied
and that assize through which new worlds begin –
when you are seen in every human face
and dignity shines forth from every place.
A photo of the Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, with his hand on the head of an indigenous boy from Arnhem Land, as the boy, unnoticed, holds out his hand.
Is it the truth we seek or something less?
The roots that search the soil – necessity
is all no matter how profound the quest.
The branches that embrace the sky – a tree’s
divinity or destiny hid in
a seed? What is our freedom? See – the course
of bees through summer air is mapped within
the hive. The memory of life set forth
in rivers long ago – enough to send
a salmon on the journey to its home.
Is any power strong enough to bend
the human heart? Our future is unknown.
Why does the grass arise, or flowers in
the spring? A love is beckoning each thing.
In darkness I can see divinity.
The star maps of the heart describe its rays.
Why close my eyes, when all around I see
the sparks of holy fire? The inner gaze
is insufficient – majesty is high.
In daylight’s visual poverty the soul
slowly expires. The universe is shy.
It is not wise to try to grasp it whole.
An advent in the shadows brings us simpler
times. Reality fragmented, every
seed alive. The cosmos has its wrinkles,
rippling through the sky. Peripheries
are where the truth must lie. My heart expands
to take in life, lying scattered here like sand.
A house with windows – nothing unexpected –
yet a metaphor for poetry.
We need a site to dwell. A man selects
a quarter acre by a stream. The sea
is close enough to visit in his sleep.
Like spring, the house begins to bloom. Its windows
look out on the hills laden with sheep.
At night they host the stars. Sometimes the wind,
whipped up by the eternity of sea,
beats on their brittle panes, and curtains drawn,
they sleep at peace within. An age-old tree
resides nearby, its shadows mark the lawn,
and sometimes, in the deepest afternoon,
it filters light – and radiance fills the room.
The river swiftly flows into the past.
The waters, once in flood, appear to drop.
It’s rumoured that a drought has come at last
to lands upstream, and there the flow has stopped.
We all must face our end – the days when hope
is finally outweighed by memory.
But this – our world’s collective fate – unspoken,
hanging in the air, a destiny
that none foresaw, except in latter times.
Each day the river flows. So powerless,
humanity, observing their incline
towards oblivion. A game of chess
where every move is known. We lift our hand
to place the piece that destiny demands.
Before the dawn – a long melodious song.
All music circles time – the origins
return, contingent things find they belong.
Completion comes to us as day begins.
I think I am a private man. My thoughts
turn into song in the long silences.
The mortal shifts its gaze to the immortal.
Hearing this, as consciousness emerges,
lifts our souls from sleep. Each spring the blackbird
comes and builds its nest in nearby trees.
Before the universe – the word. The tracks
of stars expand in their complexity,
the world revolves, the music of the spheres
is echoed in this song that disappears.
We’ve crossed into apocalyptic times.
What can we do? Our politics is charmed
by corporate wealth, the media in line,
the church is blind, unfit to sound alarm.
The planet lurches into chaos. People
of good will observe the prophesies
fulfilled, and search their hearts with urgency.
The multitudes that walked through parted seas –
was it a leader with an outstretched hand?
All night the people waited by the shore,
afraid. God answered, giving a command –
why do you cry to me, he said, move forward,
conquer with your feet. The task begun –
the Lord appears, arising like the sun.
I feel for you, who’s watched your children age.
New generations rise, the old remain
unseen. Their task to measure passing days
and value what has been. The empty plains
of bleak infinity encroach upon
your door, at night the boundless stars. You know
the silences of lifetimes that are gone,
the gathered wheat, safe-kept before the snow.
And now, in clarity of early winter
days, the distances all congregate
within. Beneath a bank of cloud, aglint
with afternoon, so much remains unstated.
Your privacy expects our loving gaze
respect the mysteries that come with age.
In music the invisible is seen.
Emotion is abstracted, yet in that
more finely drawn. The place a heart has been,
remembered in a ritual, a fact
becoming form. Greek tragedy distilled
the human soul into a potency –
cathartic pain that makes the waters still.
In truth perceived we find serenity.
Beneath the earth a sapphire’s beauty dawns.
But music’s nearer air. Like clouds suspended,
human life appears in it reborn,
its sorrows in a lighter key. Attending
it, we grasp a greater harmony,
that links all life to what it is to be.
The earth is not despite its gentle beauty
all that it should be. A discontent
is needed. Quietude – neglect of duty.
Those who love it find their hearts are rent.
Among all that is precious and profound
injustice is concealed. Confronting it
is measure of our zeal. Where sin abounds,
grace flourishes the more. Our call is written
in these texts – the Holy One approaching
bolted doors. Yet he described a world
at peace, where lilies grow arrayed like kings.
A righteous man, who knew the snake that curled,
malicious, in the tree. Tikkun Olam –
the healing of the world – his deeper plan.
I woke to sound of rain. It’s Rosh Hashanah.
Trumpets are supposed to pierce the air.
The welcome of the year is never calm.
Today it’s birdsong through the rain and prayer.
Each year builds upon the last. What was
is carried in what is. But life is fresh,
and undetermined things have their own laws.
The world is burdened by its past, the less
we grasp, the more that it remains unchanged.
I meditate on what the future brings.
To entertain despair denies the rain
accompanying this dawn, or birds that sing
despite a world unchanged. I turn to prayer,
acknowledging a hope, as pure as rare.
In time we come to choose. A long maturing,
then the moment when the paths divide.
We hope for clarity. In this, enduring
through the dark night of the soul, deciding
in the pale advance of dawn. The wind
outside is tossing all the trees. I shiver
in my room. I cannot now rescind
decisions made. The current of the river
flows one way. A providence is ruling
in the darkness, calling us to follow
in its paths. He rode upon a mule
into his destiny. He wouldn’t swallow
numbing wine. I watch him in his frailty,
radiating love, despite the nails.
It’s therapeutic to embrace a starlit
sky, and contemplate our place beneath. A mystery
that our mind cannot describe, a task
befitting more our heart. The truth resists
our calculation, beauty often hides.
It’s lonely here beneath the southern sky.
Transplanted culture leaves so much implied,
it lacks the words, summation is denied.
Two hundred years, enough to learn to feel.
The shifting seasons penetrate, a slow
familiarity, a love that’s real,
the knowledge we belong, gently bestowed.
Behold, the mark of true humility,
to see what is, rejoice, and let it be.
It’s there again, among the flowering trees.
Like spray from the resounding sea, we feel
it’s radiance. A song that none can see,
that like first love bears marks of the ideal.
It’s luminous and strong, affirming and
denying our brittle personality.
Through it we learn, as consciousness expands
in those brief moments, what it is to be.
It only comes this time of year, and though
the day is resonant, it disappears –
the silence, its true song. In ebb and flow,
the rhythm that identifies the years
is undulating in our souls. No words,
yet so much mystery in songs of birds.
I thought it would be black outside, but found
the clouds were luminous – they wore the city’s
light. And here and there between, the shroud
of deeper night. A cricket chirped, unpittied
dogs complained, the steady ocean of
the streets was all around. No sacredness,
no rest. The darkness colonized. What was
before no longer is. A wilderness,
where hidden things once grew. Where is the depth
from which things are? The womb? The silence that
proceeds the stars? Among the riches left
I feel the coolness of the breeze. A bat
flies past, its spectral form – a silhouette
against the clouds – unmoved by my regret.
I asked him, what am I to do, and added,
Lord. The answer, written on a wall
had come before my voice was heard. It’s sad
I didn’t see. What do I do, now all
that was familiar is no more, and times
unchanging change to be another? Am I
not the person that I was? No crime
has been committed. But for this – the dam
has broken. Thoughts that gather through the years
become a force of nature. Pressure builds,
the structure fails. My friends give way to fear.
I find myself forsaken by the guild.
The Lord who entered humbly on a mule,
will not forsake the one they call a fool.
While we slept the dawn had come and gone.
The overflow was all. I woke amazed
by an abundance. Vivid dreams had shone –
I gathered up the manna. Will the muse
enlighten me? Its river flows inside.
I hear the echo of the majesty
of waterfalls – a god is not denied.
What is the evidence that we are free?
The deep desire to understand, to shape
a narrative, to find our bearings in
an unfamiliar world. We can’t escape
determinacy. But gentle hands begin
the gathering of threads, and slowly weave
the clothing of a life we can believe.
Today I set off, travelling north. The journey
is unplanned, but memory holds a trace
of it like markings in the sand. I turn
from the familiar to the open space,
from comprehension to a future I
embrace. No matter, that I cannot see,
an eagle that’s enclosed has views of sky.
And we, who contemplate eternity,
are liberated here from what confines.
The world we’re in is sick. I’ll go. It needs
more than our sympathy. There’s little time.
Like Lazarus, a death cannot impede
your living flow of love. I follow. I
will see the miracles that death denies.
What links the future to the past? The breath
of human beings. Our great capacity
to image the unseen, to sense in depth,
to gather scattered time in unities.
What measurement has butterflies? The hours
of the day are their eternity.
And resting all the night upon a flower
accustoms them to nothingness. And we,
although we share their destiny, are not
confined – a problematic grace. The birds
above the sea are not assigned the lot
of fish beneath. Theirs is a different world.
We view the earth according to our place,
and sensing light from heaven, turn our face.
On weekends, in the afternoon, the air
was filled with gentle music. Coming home
from war, my father had renounced despair
and chosen this sweet joy. The sounds intoned
by clarinet and strings awakened me
to things I did not know. The subtle sweep
of music’s holy time. Affirming, free,
an ordering of things that makes us weep.
Its task is an internal education,
helping us to know the river’s course,
teaching us the way of sublimation,
surrendering to life without remorse.
In gratitude for memory endued,
I offer this in memory of you.
Within the grass a thousand dandelions
had raised their graceful heads. Each one would bob
whenever breezes passed. It was not time
for their farewells. A blackbird sung a noble
tune. The sunlight, settled everywhere,
was in no hurry to depart. The shadows
marked the slow advance of time. A careless
wind toys with our destiny, we grow
aware. Like galaxies, whose stars are birthed
in spheres of burning light, the dandelions
appear as icons of the universe.
Each beautiful, according to their time.
The wind will blow, and each will disappear –
and each return again in the new year.
Believing that the violence and despair
that plagues humanity is not its all,
I seek a world that seems as thin as air.
For much we see makes hope appear so small,
but life is beautiful, and gentle things
remain. A heart can break so easily.
Our strength can fail, we have no set of wings
to soar above our sadness. We are free
at least to feel. This morning, I awoke
to sounds of rage – a man outside my room
was shouting in despair. The air was soaked
in sunshine. From a nearby tree in bloom
the spring, incarnate, told him he belonged,
and prophesied redemption in a song.
My silence, underneath this tree, is prayer.
You hear it. High above, two crows traverse
the limitless blue sky. This earth we share,
one biosphere in which we are immersed.
Where is heaven? What possessed you when
you prayed so long ago? Surely, knowledge
that the kingdom had come near. It bends
the world like wind. Its shoots appear. The solid
things melt in its heat. What did you say
on mountain tops surrounded by the stars?
Great silences inhabit us today.
The dream has passed. The crow calls from afar.
But this is home. Before the sun appears
the sound of singing fills our waking ears.
Beneath the continents the great artesian
seas are suffering. Replenishment
is overtaken by the works of human
hands. Anthropocene – no precedent
in time. A metaphor – these aquifers
transformed to deserts. Once the numinous
was near – essential things possessed our words,
and life was drawn without incurring loss.
Through common use, the holiness of things
descends much deeper in the ground beneath
our knees. To pray is difficult. Our wings
are clipped. Our soul is forfeit to the thief.
A thunderstorm? The sky above is clear.
A downpour in unseasonable years?
And now, at the renewal of all things,
it’s joy that is their substance and expression
of their form. It is as life begins
in spontaneity and innocence.
The lamb, however, bears its wounds – the marks
of former things miraculously enduring
in the dawn. It is as if the spark
of life initiates again – mature,
complete this time, the fruit instead of seed.
The bones that you have crushed, restored, awake
to shouts of joy, amazed at their reprieve.
A broken heart is never a mistake,
the cities walls are fashioned from such stones,
the residence of joy, and joy alone.
The incarnation – purest bloom amidst
a field of flowers. Somehow God inhabits
us. Unique among all that exists –
humanity. A template so elaborate,
sculptured by the infinite in time.
Eternity unto eternity –
you see with heaven’s eye. We only mime –
a clown’s impressions of your majesty,
a shadow that will die. The day’s horizon
features both the sunset and the dawn.
Our soul has intimations of the sky,
and discontent, until it is reborn,
looks out into the evening stretching far.
At night it blooms – the bright and morning star.
It seems to fly – the humbled intellect,
an undulating line of hills where earth
connects with sky. The path is not direct
that links our minds. Our hubris is a curse.
Ascending mountain peaks alone is risky
at the best of times. But in a storm,
it’s foolishness to try. The grace that lifts
is not the kind of thing a man can learn.
The rock art of millenniums ago
depicts the world in contours of pure line.
Immersed in life, our species seems to flow
among the creatures hovering in time.
I shall not try to reach the distant stars –
the satisfied remain just where they are.
I feel the spirit rising up within
that stirred in Samuel, Samson and our King
who long ago turned water into wine,
and tenderly made weeping faces shine.
It’s crossed the water, flown in wind and fire,
reaching us before we could enquire
why it lingered. Supernatural things,
obeying a different law, swiftly begin.
I’m unprepared for such onslaughts of power,
I have a human frame. You made the sun,
whose radiance outpoured, hour after hour,
demonstrates that work you have begun –
our flesh becoming sites of holy fire,
offered on the altar place, entire.
I wept, and then I walked towards the tomb.
I was not angry, nor afraid. I felt
compassion, here beneath a waning moon.
Aware of all humanity is dealt,
and incapacity to hope, aware
that darkness swiftly forms despite the light,
I crossed the field, unmoved by many staring
eyes. I knew a man has little might
before the terrors of the earth. He brakes
as easily as a jar. I sensed the dark
ascendancy of night, the barren lake
of fire. Like Moses in his tiny ark,
I saw death neutered of its sting. I spoke,
and deep within the tomb the dead awoke.
And God said, let the waters swarm with life,
and let the birds ascend above the earth,
and let the land bring forth things without price –
each living creature, infinite in worth,
created by decree, their life a gift.
And this, in forty years, our kind, without
temerity, has found it right to sift.
God often speaks in whispers, now he shouts –
for over half the mammals, reptiles, birds,
amphibians and fish, his image here
has recently erased. Do we have words
to bring before him? Silence, this I fear
is all that he will hear – the emptiness
of earth itself turned into wilderness.
I’ve too much freedom, too much time to think.
My culture and my education, life
that’s unencumbered, lots to eat and drink.
I am a man immersed in privilege, rife
with circumstantial weed – for many bear
the cross of my redemption from their need.
My paths are undergirded by despair.
The intellectual’s duty – to impede
the flow of suffering, to staunch the wound.
Reflection should our fellow man empower.
For now, among the wheat, a crop of weeds
is flourishing with verdant tips in flower.
Yet everywhere the river flows the leaves
of healing grow. Some properties are theirs
alone, attenuating human cares.
A seed that shoots, tomorrow, from the soil.
Some things we hope, and patiently believe.
Some things emerge for which we have not toiled.
Who planted it – the gift that we receive
when time has run its course? We wait. Our lives
depart into their destiny. The words
we spoke – like autumn leaves beneath the sky,
attentive to the wind. Who can have heard
them anyway? The dew, the soil, the sun-tipped
breeze, the angels of an unseen world
that nourishes our dreams. What has begun
beneath the surface gradually uncurls,
like shoots, forerunners of a better earth –
where treasure is accorded its true worth.
I am not asking to convert you, nor
to underwrite my views. A church can walk
in step with heaven, though diverse its store
of truth. What we believe is more than talk,
it nourishes our bones, and who he is
is manifest in who we are. The doctrine
of the word needs bend before the wisdom
of the Son, he is the key, unlocking
hidden mysteries. My views are not
cancer slowly spreading. Scholarship
is not the wolf’s disguise. A heart that’s hot –
this is the sickness that we need, the grip
of holy fire. The word borne by the wind,
this is the place where everything begins.
I’ve followed you far east of Eden, dwelling
under stars. The earth is fragile there.
What we have done to nature passes telling.
Innocence has vanished, lives so rare.
The mornings are depleted, ancient songs
unheard. More tenuous, more marginal,
the life beyond the trees, where stars belong.
Out there our love becomes impersonal,
familial bonds dissolve. Uprooted, at
the mercy of the breeze, the withering
begins. When life is full there is no gap
for the enduring things. I follow him
into the wilderness. He gathers crumbs,
abandoned by the people we’ve become.
A life appears to circle – from beginning
to the end. A boomerang returning.
Promise and fulfilment. Something lingers
like a feather in the air or burning
after rain. An odyssey meanders.
Subtle destinies control a ship.
Fate’s slow solemnity is seldom grand.
I’ve passed the halfway mark, the sun has dipped
towards the west. Eternity is pulling
year to year. Is nothingness the place
to which I must return? A glass that’s full
can only overflow. A stream replaces
all that streams away. The circle blends,
mysteriously, beginning into end.
The setting sun – the birth of Yom Kippur.
The birds accompany us from day to night.
They sing on, ceaselessly. I shut the door
and sit within. A time to find delight
in hidden things. The coming of the stars –
a mystery foundational to Jewish
time, the evening and the morning are
the order, picturing perhaps that newness
only comes from the divine. I write
these words as darkness falls. My faithfulness
to Torah, being a Gentile, is unclear.
I follow partially, with gratefulness.
A cricket calls, the traffic barely slows –
a deeper silence settles like the snow.
The earth’s in pain, besieged by Capital.
A slow attrition. Like a noose its power
grips the neck. All is expendable.
Relentlessly – a weed without a flower –
expanding into virgin territory.
Exploiting wealth indigenous – of people
and of place. Expropriated free.
Who can resist? Its influence the steeple
and the bank defend, the mighty set
against the suffering of the poor. Five hundred
years, its character unchanged. The best
of men subsumed. A crime. A fearful wonder.
For those who break its spell, a world repaired,
in time, the wealth of earth and nations shared.
An earth that slowly burns. Apocalypse
in present tense. The rich add wood to their
own funeral pier. Who hears the silent lips?
Who speaks for those we cannot hear? A tear
in human history, ripping future from
the past. Jehoiakim, while listening to
the prophet’s words – the fire burning long –
attacked them with his callous blade, and threw
the severed scroll in portions to the flames.
Assembled riders, horses white and fiery,
black and pale as death, await their names.
Whose voice will call them to invade? The sky
is blue. They answer to a voice below,
a generation here, commanding – Go.
When Mary waited at your feet – you
commended her. Are acts subservient
to this – the life of contemplation? Few
agree. The world would slowly cease. The gentry
fending for themselves? The wealth of nations
left unharvested, unmined? The workers
may not mind. They’d send a delegation
asking for more time – they would not shirk
their duty to be free. And soon, the spirit
too would gradually increase. Surmising
it’s illusory – for who will give
permission for the underclass to thrive –
I contemplate perhaps what Mary saw –
a door, a place to leave what was before.
The earth is singing endlessly, on land,
in sky and sea. Above, the silent spheres
have their own harmony. The songs expand
through life’s long history. New ones appear.
I’m silent now, excepting these few words.
The stream of my humanity is pure.
Unique in part, attune to what’s occurred,
innumerable tributaries ensure
vitality. The river flows. At times
to listen is to know. Another carries
the responsibility that’s mine,
and sings without constraint. I should not worry.
Every song is part of only one,
beginning long before ours had begun.
When I was young I visited a lake.
Situated in the midst of desert,
blue that mirrored blue. By mistake
perhaps, more likely negligence, this treasure
was defiled. Algal blooms and waste,
its inflow compromised by farms. Today
the Aral Sea has vanished. With such haste
a tragedy. The cotton farmers, paying
their workers nothing – surely slavery –
have wasting nature’s bounty at a reckless
speed. For what? The fashion industry.
The scale is so much greater. I detect
a criminal, that will not stop until
the planet is subjected to his will.
With equanimity the sun approaches
death. Beginnings are a mirror of
an end. It arcs towards the place it chose,
the archer and the arrow one in love.
A cloud of witnesses beholds the scene.
The morning’s joy takes on a deeper hue.
Our living arcs across the great between.
Impossible it seems, yet it is true,
this flight across the emptiness. A point
that’s fixed – our origin and end. The placement
on the bow, the guiding hand appointing
destinies. And far away, the face
whose beauty is our goal – the arrow’s mark,
the terminus of life’s elliptic arc.
Today I am a prisoner in the dock
because of thoughts. The meditations of
the heart are God’s domain. They are unlocked
in speech – it’s overflow. I am your brother,
searching honestly for truth. Why am
I penalized for following his word –
to seek and find? Desire to understand
is not a crime. So much that we have heard
is held unchallenged. Is it reverence
to fight for this, a structure built in time,
when truth’s eternal? In our experience
who has not had to change? The light would shine
on what we thought was so. I cannot turn
unless I see the bush begin to burn.
I do not dwell at length on this, my thoughts
have seasons, things that flourish in their time.
Creation, how we came to be, reports
of ancient memories, a text designed
to comfort and inspire. These questions stand.
More often other things engage my mind.
Why are our hearts so hard? Where is his hand?
What of the future – we have little time
to act to circumvent our doom? The gospel –
have we grasped its core? Does beauty shine?
Without it generations may be lost.
How would we act if all our hearts inclined
towards his tenderness? These questions raised –
enough to occupy us many days.
I’m silenced. This I feared. A moon that wanes.
Unwanted prophets – lost before they’re found.
Irrational – the rational by name.
I’m sorrowful to leave this sacred ground –
yet Eden turned into a wilderness.
The tree of life appeared unique – a dozen
grow where waters heal our bitterness.
This evening the moon is high, a frozen
disk of light. Our days are numbered, swiftly
they advance towards another age.
We fade away, as if we don’t exist.
What value then, an attitude of rage?
A prophet’s voice is nourished by the sun,
his words take root wherever they are shunned.
The moon adrift among the clouds – the homeless
have the sky. The stars in multitudes
advancing on their way. I am alone
on earth. Humanity – an interlude.
A deeper history beyond the marker
buoys. I am adrift. I do not know
the way to navigate. My heart is dark.
The sun has set. I’m blanketed with snow.
Alive in time, Creator of the sky
and moon, to you I cry. I disappear,
you will remain. The circumstance of my
existence falls before your eyes. I fear.
I cannot see you. When will you arise?
I shall not die – the homeless have the sky.
I’m silent as the sky. My speechless words
are spilt. Eternity has shrunk to fill
a grain of wheat. The pioneering birds
begin to sing beyond my windowsill.
But I remain as silent as the dawn.
A thousand generations lived before
I came to be. I feel as if I’m torn.
What memories remain? Another law
is singing now amidst the wind. The moon
drenched gums are dancing. Distant sounds of traffic,
barely heard, are bending too. A bloom
of something ancient and profound. It swiftly
speaks before the light appears, an ocean
without sound of memory unbroken.
Let justice roll on like a river, never
ending may it stream. In broad headwaters
may its current swiftly save, deliver,
all the wrong sweep clean. In bricks and mortar
principalities and powers build
a cruel society – the face of God
on earth progressively laid waste. The guild
who privilege their own shall ride roughshod
the rest. Eternity will set things right.
But who can wait eternally – the pain
is now, injustice rules, no end in sight.
I hear the waters’ steady roar, a reign
of righteousness, a river none can cross,
arising where we thought all things were lost.
Uncertainty – a frozen river none
will cross for fear it breaks. A view of sky
through open windows, glimpses of the sun –
each thing that humans have begun, the shy
advance of years. Sometimes it’s hard to face
what is and might have been. The past forewarns.
A foot misplaced, the spectre of disgrace,
the limitation of our present form.
I’m glad that you were born. You lifted eyes
within a darkened room. A secret shared,
the one unseen rewarded you. Arising,
shining, lit by dawn, beyond despair,
a man in tune with heaven, unadorned,
except for beauty gentleness has formed.
I lay down in the dust. Beginning there
so long ago, how far the stone was thrown.
I celebrate the stars in tangled hair,
prehistory recorded in our bones.
The dust has claims – our origin and end.
I feel the breath that animates my mind,
my heart, my soul, and like a reed I bend –
the wind that set eternity in time.
My face down-turned, I taste the earth, and let
its claim on me be once again renewed.
From dust we came, to dust, without regret,
we must return. Among the wheat that grew –
a single stalk, abundantly in seed,
victorious, though bending as a reed.
You have a father too. We all do. Living
in a place that’s very near. Some people
say that this is false. That we are given
life alone. That it’s unreasonable
to contemplate the sea could reach the sand.
Some say that he is far away, and so
can barely hear. In this I understand,
for often I have sensed the afterglow,
the sun already set behind the hills.
A father who has given us his ear,
who lives with us – he does and always will –
is like a day’s beginning, sky so clear,
the touch of summer in the air, like love,
a unity with beauty far above.
The spring has room for many birds. Today
another one appeared. I recognised
its song. Each is in flower. The singing stays
as long as blossoms. Many darting eyes.
A rich community. The avian.
The vegetation. Spring surprises me.
A multitude. A start. A year begun.
I feel the weightlessness of heavy trees.
The turtledoves. A wing that darts. The is.
The gentleness that is a mystery.
The hours that pass. The sun that is and with
us stays. The tabernacle housing me
in festival antipodean, with sky
its ceiling – wide enough for every why.