Book of Hours

 

On the Clouds

 

I saw Him coming on the clouds

In my parent’s bedroom where

I slept with my wife to be when one day

I awoke with the question of where

I come from and

I knew the answer

In three light filled moments when

I saw

I came from them and they from their parents and from there back

Into eternity where He began and

I knew that He had been here on the earth and that

I had life forever

 

As a boy I remember

As I stood under

A shower trying to imagine

A time outside time that

After my death would be forever

And before I was born had

Always been

 

On a summer day I

Once sat in the sun with a Bible

Open to the Gospel

Of John and the words were mysterious to me

 

Beside a New Zealand

Beach the mother of my wife to

Be looked out to sea and said there was a world

Beyond our sight and later we heard a preacher who as he passed

By us kept saying a reed

Blowing in the wind it

 

Was

When my friend said

We should find some

Words to set to music and

We settled on the Bible that I

Wrote about the

World’s creation and of Him

Who alone does great

Wonders

Who loves and set us free and

Who is coming on the clouds

 

 

I stood at a distance. I was aware of a group of pine trees and winter clouds, and the family group below, as the casket was lowered into the ground. I had followed behind another car on a road beside the Wanganui River. After a couple of kilometres we turned left into the cemetery. The previous night I had arrived well after midnight, the back door left unlocked for me, a passage of lights prearranged. I was given his bed to sleep in. The room had some medical equipment, a few of his personal things and a sense of simplicity. When I had visited another house they lived in years before the same simplicity was there. I had seen a depth in him, God’s hands that would reach into us like a gardener’s, an invisible world of the Spirit, angels and demons. I first met him at Katoomba, where I was soon to be married. My friend introduced us. I remember years later walking with him though a museum in Wanganui. As we came up to a Maori carving he greeted it, acknowledging the spirit there and the Spirit with him.

 

When my wife’s father died I arrived at night. From the air the Canterbury Plains were white under the moon and I could even see snow on the beaches. The next day I went inside the little chapel where the casket lay. Its curved timber ceiling was like an old ship. At the front of the room was a table with a book containing the names, written with a fountain pen, of those who had died. The funeral was at Christchurch Cathedral, with his daughter’s Alleluia, and a cold wind outside. His faith was intangible, like an underground river that emerges at times, and he expressed it through the music he loved.

 

 

As the friends did not understand what had

Begun they

Climbed into a boat and spent the night in

Darkness light dawned in the

 

East and they heard a voice call them but the

Face was unclear

 

Guided by his words they let down their nets and the fish

Hopped

In such

Jubilant abundance that one of them could not

Keep from diving into the water it is the

 

Lord his friend said and that

 

Moment they knew that the

Numinous presence all around was because of the

One there

 

 

One April my children and I climbed Uluru. Rain had fallen and we drunk from rock pools there.

 

 

Attuned to

Behold the

Creator’s

Dark

Entry

 

Fire burned and still he did not

Go outside

 

He had remained

In the shadows as wind was

Joined by thunder

Knowing that

Love’s

Meaning was

Not found here

 

Only a

Pure

Quiet sound that

Remains when

Storms pass over and

Timelessness appears

 

Underneath awareness He

Visits the place we are born

 

 

Enthroned in the Air

 

 

An autumn tree is echoed

By the rock face of a

Craggy outcrop to

 

Discern

Equivalence in

Forms is a

Gift that

Helps

Impart

Joy this

 

Knowledge

Late in the day

Makes

Numinous the

Orange rock as it

Partakes in the

Quality of light of the

Returning

Sun

 

 

A great

Blackness whose

Cold light marks our

Destination

 

 

A dog

Barks

 

Clarity at

Dawn

 

 

A

Blue

Cloud

Day

Enters

 

 

At noon with water

Beneath it a

Currawong’s

Desolate call is

Enthroned in the air

 

 

All the clouds came from

Behind the mountains

Crossing

Deserts and

Evenings to

Find us

 

 

A tiny group of white clouds appear

By nightfall

Crossing over the hills to

Draw near

Each only

For a short time

 

 

A moonless night

Black

Cold

Despairing

 

 

A cloudless day

Blue

Clear

Despairing

 

 

Another turning of the earth

 

 

As a

Boy I

Can remember

Dreams of

Effortless

Flight

 

 

After fifty years I

Began to see

Considered things

Differently

 

 

Above the water the

Bird’s strong

Call is a

Demarcation of

Eternal things

 

 

A currawong’s

Black wings

Can take it to the place of

Dreams

 

 

A large harvest moon above the horizon

Brilliant

Covered in the

Day that has

Ended

 

For the next hours it is

Glorious

Here

Incandescent with

Joy

 

 

Are we

Born to

Come to see

 

 

At my home

By river and mountain and bay

Clouds

Depart

Each hour

For the sea

 

 

 

Castle Circuit

 

 

A castle can

Be seen across the bay

 

Castle Circuit is named after it

During my childhood we ushered

Each guest onto our balcony and helped them to

Find it amongst the

Gum trees that almost

Hid

It from view

 

Just now it came into my mind

Kept hidden there

 

Last time I visited

My home I

Noticed as always the

Open water and the

Perfection that

Quietly

Resides on the hills

 

 

Above the

Bay sounds are

Clearer

Deeper

Echoing in the

Full air of

Great spaces

Held reverently

In between hills

Joined like hands the

 

Kookaburras’

Long chorus

Marks

Nightfall currawongs cry

 

Overhead

 

 

At the end of day the

Boughs of a tree are

Covered in sunlight

Dark shadows already

Embrace the trunk

Flying from its branches

Grey birds seek the

Height of the sky

 

In the east is the colour of

Jonquils

 

 

All over the garden

Bulbs had

Come into flower

Daffodils

Emerged

Freely in the

Grass growing without

Hindrance

In the autumn light I

 

Joined my grandmother as she

Knelt there

Lovingly tending them

 

 

A native garden was planted at the

Back of the property where it was

Cooler and

Damper a little creek

Emerged

From under the retaining wall watering this

Garden of Eden

 

Here mosses grew on the sandstone and

In summer we looked down at a corner of bay like a

Jewel amongst the lattice of leaves the

 

Kinship of things

Lovingly tended

Makes a paradise in places

None would have known

 

 

All around us was

Bushland in my

Childhood as each

 

Day

Ended my mother would call us in

From our wanderings when I

 

Grew older the lit

House was an

Icon of

Joy

 

 

At a Slovenian church

Built by immigrants I listened to the

Creed spoken in a language very

Different from mine

Exiled here it

Forms afresh at each

Gathering I sat with a old woman who

Had not entered

Into this world for a lifetime

Joining a

Kinship of

Language

Moved her deeply as

Nameless

Origins were

Pronounced

 

 

A half century ago my father

Bought land overlooking a

Curved harbour the

 

Deeds are

Everlasting

 

 

 

Lake Mungo

 

 

Ancient sandhills

Brought us there

Created in the

Desert

Eons ago

Formed as a

Great wall on the

Horizon

Intersecting our sense of the

Just with another

Karma

Less human but

More

Noble

Or

Perhaps more

Quiescent than

Recent Homo

Sapiens

Tells

 

 

At the grey walls

Built like a

City long ago

Destroyed the

Ephemeral

Forms on the

Ground

Held

Insights in their

Jagged

Kabbalistic

Lettering

 

 

Attempting to understand we stopped

By the sand hills and

Centred ourselves trying to

Discern the

Eternal

From our car radio we played

Great sounds of an orchestra

Hovering over a land

In our minds

 

 

A lake of lost water

Broken in the

Clear

Desert

Explaining nothing

 

 

Archaeologists found evidence of

Burials here

Cremated bones with a

Deposit of red ochre

Evidence of the

Fire of ceremony

Gatherings where

Humanity saw

Itself in

Joint awe

Kinship and

Love

 

 

A

Bugle

Call

Denotes the

Exit of

Fire

Gone on the

Horizon

 

 

A stone circle

Built by my ancestors

Circling

Destiny

Echoing

Far sky a

 

Great wall

Here

Inspired by no

Joint

Knowledge no

Love no

Meaning

Nothing

 

Only a

Presence

 

 

Approaching a memorial

Built by no one

Calls for a

Decorum to

 

Enter where

Faith is in the

Ground where

Humans lie

In which past

Joys are laid as a

Keel in the earth’s

Long

Motion into

Night

 

 

 

Hebert

 

 

Along a highway

By the sea I found the

Cemetery where a man from who I am

Descended is buried an

Emigrant from

France unaware that his line would

Go out from

Here rooted

In this ground like a stump of

Jesse he settled in

Kiama where

Long waves break a

 

Man who knew the

Name

Of God he left to his

Posterity a

Questioning heart and a desire to sift

Reality for the

Source of all

Things

 

 

A

Bible he owned

Came into my possession

 

During my adult years an

Elderly relation on my

Father’s side

Gave it to me after

Having told me his story

 

Its pages contain

Jottings written when he first

Knew God

 

Left there as a

Memorial on the

New pages

Of this Bible he

Placed beside a

Quotation from Isaiah the

Realization it was for me

 

 

At was for me is how he wrote it

Betraying his French accent the

Chastisement of our peace was upon him Isaiah

Declares we did

Esteem him stricken smitten of God and afflicted

For he shall bear their iniquities

 

God inspired words and his name

Hebert was written beside them

 

 

A congregation of

Believers was his

Charge as he worked by

Day in a nearby mine

Exceptional or ordinary I couldn’t

Find out although my

Great aunt said

His funeral procession

Included the whole town

 

 

As our orbit moves

By an unseen force

Ceaseless we

Draw to the

East to

Face the sun

 

 

After his death his wife remarried and gave

Birth to other

Children their

Descendants moved to Sydney and were lost in the

Eternal motion that only the

Future reveals

 

 

At the

Bible Society office in Sydney I once saw a

Curious sight

Deposited on a beach after a storm

Engulfed a ship

Far out to sea a

 

Glass container

Holding a Bible tossed by the waves until it resembled a stone

I could clearly see on its surface a phrase from Isaiah

 

 

At a place

By the harbour that

Curves into ancient sandstone one of his

Descendants settled

 

Entered among the

Final pages of his Bible are a

Group of maxims

He wrote

In

Jet-black ink now tinged with red

 

Kepler’s

Law shows that the earth’s orbit

Moves in an ellipse

Not a perfect circle as

Other men had

Presumed so our

Questioning hearts are

Restrained be

 

Strong in sorrow do not desire what you cannot obtain

Take the day as it is and men as they are but have God on your right

 

Under that sky God

Visited me a branch on his

Wide tree

 

 

 

Uluru

 

 

A

Black

Crow cries in the

Deep that

Enfolds it

 

Flying

 

Great

Holiness

Immerses its

Journey

 

 

A strong wind suddenly

Blew against us as we reached the

Crest of the rock the

 

Distant scrubland

Existed it seemed to

Focus the

Great monolith

Here

In the centre a

 

Jacinth stone set in gold silently

 

Keening for

Life

Men do not

Notice

 

 

At the summit the path

Branched out and

Curved over

Dark rock in an

 

Echo of

Far sky the

Ground there

Had a number of pools

Indenting its surface a

 

Jade

Kingdom

Left by rain

 

 

Among the outcrops we sheltered

Beneath one

Clear of the wind in all

 

Directions the

Expansive desert

Freely

Grew through the

Horizon

 

Indicating as a

Jewel watch

Keeps time from its centre a

Land’s inner

Meaning

Named

Only here

 

 

A

Black pool in a

Crevice

 

Drawing near I

Enter

 

Face and sky

Go as my

Hand touches water

 

 

At the heart of the sunrise our feet should not be

 

 

At a meeting

Between myself and a

Composer

Dedicated in the

Endeavour to

Find the

Great

Heart of

Infinity we

 

Joined hands and he with a

 

Keen gaze

Looked into

Me

 

 

Above the shrubs in the

Back garden a

Clear

Day is changing

 

Eight cockatoos

Fly in wild

Gyrations

High over an

Inlet of water

 

Just now

Kookaburras call from a clump of

Large trees on the hill

Meaning rain is

Near

 

 

Australia

 

Born at its

Centre

Drinks

Eternity there

 

 

 

Night

 

 

As that other hemisphere of

Birdsong slows and then

Ceases and

Daylight completes its retreat from the

East the

Far away silence of

Grandeur begins

High music that we relate

Instinctively to a

Joyful freedom the

Kind a breeze from the south brings or the sound of waves on a

Long beach

Music of

Night has a quality all of its

Own it

Possesses a

Quietness that is

Resonate with the

Surf of

Timeless oceans and

Undying gusts of

Visionary

Wind

 

 

As the stars flow past in a

Black river we watch its

Ceaseless

Dreamlike motion

Entranced by their crystalline

Forms that

Glint in the water

 

Here too

In flood are other streams that

Join it and like a

Kestrel hovering against the wind in a

Long

Moment of soaring seem to wait before entering from deeper

Night and then

Overflow with thousands of

Points of

Quartz light

Rippling on their

Surface

 

 

A

Bright star in the

Cold sky

Denies our

Existence its

Foreign

Gaze

Has the

Incisive

Joy of youth a

Keen glance that should be

Long

Motionless in the grave yet

Now looks on us who

Only

Perceiving a moment in our tiny

Quotient of its existence

Resemble a firefly’s

Sparkle but

To be here

Under its light is a

Vision for

Wonder

 

 

As the stars flow past in a

Black river none

Can see its bottom like

Death where

Entire lives

Float on its surface

Glistening with

Hope frozen

In time that has itself

Just set like the sun

 

 

At midnight I rise to praise you

Blessed are you

Creator of the universe

Designer of the stars’

Entire journey

From eternity to eternity

Giver of life in the

Heights and

In the earth

 

 

At midnight I rise at midnight I rise at midnight

 

 

As I read in a poem by

Borges

Chess pieces move through

Daylight and night

Emblemized in the

Features of the board so we

 

Go out and come in

Hoping

In our

Journey to

Keep being

Led to where

Morning and

Night are

One

 

 

 

A Book of Hours

 

 

A

Book of hours in a

Circle of

Days

Extending out to the years’

Furlong the amount of

Ground oxen could plough

Here

In our time

Journeys

Keep

Leaning towards darkness as the

Months in

Numb

Order

Proceed yet a

Quiet purpose still

Rests on the hours like a

Swell on the

Tide

 

 

As pages turn the

Book’s

Craftsmanship is apparent

Designed with

Élan and

Finesse its

Gossamer

Hours are

Illumined no

Journeyman’s

Knowledge could

Lay exquisite

Meaning as

Nature in time’s

Open

Pages

 

 

A call to prayer

By a road

Clouds pass and

Death is not far

 

 

A Page from a Book of Hours

 

Above us the sky is still

Bright the

Constellations in

Dark resonance may

Embroider the seasons but we

Feel only

Goodness as

Humming bees land

In the pollen

 

 

An Illuminated Manuscript

 

A long branch of foliage is

Beneath and above the

Carefully formed letters

Decoration helps

Explain the strange

Foreignness of words that

Govern our lives

 

Here

In receiving

John of Patmos

Keeps counsel with an eagle as he forms

Letters on the

Manuscript and all around is

Nature

Ornamented in fecund

Patterns

 

Quadrants measure the celestial

Regions these mysterious

Symbols on

The vellum

Underneath and above have

Views of this

World

 

 

Aaron

Began to

Carefully observe the

Departure and

Emergence of light

Fire on the altar a sacrifice

Given our

 

Here

Intersecting His

 

 

A

Book

Contains

 

Dust

 

Each new

Formed hour

 

Grants a world

 

 

As a tree

Beside streams

Cannot wither

Delight in

Each law

From

God’s lips

 

Honey

Is

 

 

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