A Tree in Winter
I read another news report about the melting ice caps,
now a quarter of the mass they were three decades ago.
The professor said it is the prelude to their final collapse.
The open sea absorbs more heat, the ocean grows
until the ice is gone, and all the sunlight, once reflected,
is now added to the warming of the earth – twenty
years of mankind’s CO2 would have a similar effect.
And then there are the huge amounts of methane trapped, sixty
times more potent, that the melting permafrost will soon
release. What are we doing to our world? The Arctic ice
has been there since time immemorial, and now the moon
looks out upon a different earth, as it shrinks in size.
God instructed Israel, telling them to leave their fields
to rest once every seven years, and every fifty years
return all alienated land. In this he guarded both the yield
of nature and the peaceful coexistence of its peers.
Are we like lemmings, who in need to migrate to another
place, will cross a stretch of water that is far too wide,
a Tower of Babel where our paths are all confused, and brother
is at war with brother, as the earth itself is dying?
The earth has lost its crown it seems, or soon at least it will,
as Samson had a head of hair that, while he kept it, symbolized
his covenant with God, but when he carelessly fulfilled
his own desires, God left, and he no longer had his eyes.
They say that China’s Great Wall can be seen from outer space.
Our loss will be there too, engraved and visible to all,
as deeper changes follow, hidden now from view, but racing
with inevitability towards a tragic fall.
How can it be that years of industry, of cars, of travel,
air conditioners, cities filled with light, food transported
near and far, forests felled and burned, plastics, cattle,
luxuries of millions in the western world, in short
the way of life we all have thought as normal, even as
our right, how can it be that this is what has brought the world
to such a place, that all the earth should be no more than ransom
paid for our ephemeral lifestyle, generations hurled
into another, tougher, wilder, harsher, bleaker and
forbidding world? And though the moon can see the ice’s end
it seems few notice here, spare a thought or care, as sands
are stripped by autumn tides, soon all life on earth will bend
to the new forces that we have unleashed. Perhaps the story
of the flood, a memory some have said of movements of
the sea when the last ice age was concluding, has a glory
there, a future for the troubled earth – seen in the dove.
For only here within the pages of the book I base
my life upon can I see an equivalence to what
is happening now, a transformation of the scale we face.
Where are the Noahs of our time whose walk with God rebuts
the civilization they come from, who take the role of servants
to the earth, to care for it in humble husbandry
as God intended when men first emerged as beings observant
of creation’s multifarious life beneath the sky?
The Son of God was tempted to make bread from out of stones.
He knew another code of life proceeding from the mouth
of God, the way the ancients once had walked, and there alone
with animals and angels he emerged victorious.
Are we too late? Is history at another place? Do ancient
books no longer have a relevancy, as life all men
has known begins to change, and much we once all knew as sacred
disappears? What will our children say to our Amen?
Today a bird flew east.
East of it the sun appeared.
The ocean washed the sand
in waves, each coming from
the east, each one below the sun.
A thousand will come in
before the bird returns.
The sun kept climbing,
higher than the bird.
Until it dropped,
a yellow stone,
far from where
its flight began.
Today the earth is still.
My feet can feel it,
Each grain of sand
is resting in its home.
I move my toes,
it doesn’t travel far.
The earth itself
is no more than a grain
The wind is blowing.
Trees all move before
the backdrop of blue
sky. The sky is silent
I sometimes sense the
beating of my heart.
The rhythm of my
breath. And the flight
of my mind.
The sinking of sleep.
Thoughts’ aimless movement
and their swoops.
And journeys that
take me to somewhere
And some that
The shadows are
slower than the waves.
They always flow
the same direction.
It’s said to look into your face
is all the world is longing for.
What kind of face can satisfy
what we have hoped for years to find,
each morning and each noon and every
afternoon and night, each sky
that came, each view of sea and stars,
and all the faces of the countless
human beings we each have seen?
Could seeing your face annul all this?
A little baby will at times
keep staring at its mother’s face.
And those in love are known to do
the same. A thirsty man will stay
beside a stream to drink until
his thirst is satisfied. But then
he will get up again and leave.
It’s difficult for us to grasp
the idea of a face like yours,
a face that always satisfies,
a face including every other
face that we have ever loved.
But how can I conceive the concept
of a face, a human face
with eyes and mouth and nose and all
that comes when life has lit these features,
that somehow contains within
the vistas of the earth and sky,
the details of a flower, the sweep
of music, all the grandeur of
our deepest thoughts, and in a pure
simplicity has grasped it all,
and welcomes us to enter in
to what all this is just the door?
I think that the most beautiful
of faces have an openness,
a welcome and an innocence.
Their eyes may search us, but we know
their heart is pure, and fearing is
unthinkable. Your face, I’m sure,
is such a face, and so I long,
like all the world, to see like this.
And how could such a face annul
the other faces we have loved?
For who created them, and saw
them grow, and watched each love develop
between a mother and her child,
two friends, a look of sympathy,
the bonds and loss of married life?
The one who made each face to be
is he whose face we all shall see.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
For though you live again in heights above
I know that you have been where lions roar
and sunk beneath the ocean waves where doves
could not be found, nor any other promise
of deliverance or hope. You cried
out then to sky as black as pitch, and conscious
of the emptiness of life you died.
Was any man’s despair like yours, with God
as distant as the stars – who you had always
known to be like air, dependable as ground you trod
upon, a pressure in your heart that stayed?
And here beneath, when you seem far, I cry
that I could turn to see the boundless sky.
I wait for you like watchmen wait for morning.
They know the light that always came will come
to visit them again, and warnings, sounding
that the night is long, the rising sun
will cause them to forget. But night can make
us feel that daylight is a memory,
a golden age long passed – so for our sake
the watchmen call each hour our destiny
to see. These watchmen speak of light within
that rises where no light has been, and shines
on us a glory that no man had seen
before – the glory of the one who climbed
the mountain range of suffering to see
the dawn that broke upon humanity.
He shall redeem us from iniquity.
A stone can never rise and fly, its heart
is heavy, earth is where it came to be
and there it stays. But we do not have hearts
of stone, we feel the bruising of the world,
we love and empathize. But somehow in
the depths we know an evil that’s uncurled –
a poison that is in our veins that brings
more pain than love. When David saw the giant
there he caused a stone to fly, with perfect
aim it hit its mark, a heart compliant
to another call. But who expected
we would be the stone embedded in
your holy brow, as life again begins?
A Tree in Winter
A tree in winter longs for spring to come,
its branches bend, each suffering in the cold.
The sky, though often clear, contains a sun
so pale and distant, warmth cannot enfold.
When spring is near a blackbird comes and sings
among its branches, waking it from sleep,
reminding it that, as a bird has wings
to fly, a tree is meant to flourish, deepest
green shall cover it, and rustling in
the wind, its leaves shall join the calling birds
in welcoming the spring. So let us sing,
we’re meant for light, to hear His gentle words
that call all things from winter’s cold to know
the warmth of sun filled skies where once was snow.
Arrow Inside A Inescapably
Born Here Bleakness Heavenwards
Clear Gathering Could Guest
Daylight Fear Descend Friendless
Enters Existential Except Each
From Despite For Drawing
Great Comfort God’s Compassion
Heights Brought Holy Birthed
I Am Interventions Arrow
The sky was darker in the afternoon,
the tree, whose leaves had just begun to grow
when I last looked on it, was covered now
in green, it seemed that spring had come too soon
for men like me to notice. Nature blooms
while we decay. Our aspiration’s slow
ascent is in another sky, it’s flower
opens to receive the dew, its ruin
comes when seasons change and we remain
unchanged, unable to respond, potentials
unfulfilled. I see the clouds foretelling
rain, the tree’s abundance is a flame
emerging from a hidden core, essential
things that rise to sing amongst the mortal.
As daylight ends all things begin to fade,
the trunks of trees, the birds upon the lawn,
the plans for day before that day was born,
each sinks beneath the rising tide of shade.
Where once we could distinguish every blade
and everything was vibrant, now forlorn,
the grass turns back into the earth, its morn
and midday passed, a death, no more delayed,
has grasped each individuality
and transformed what was beautiful to grey.
The coming of the kingdom of the night
is gentle, quiet, solemn, kind – that we
could freely leave a world we thought would stay,
claimed by another beauty, beyond sight.
Today I woke to see a sky all blue,
the infinite was there again. We turn
to see the bird whose early song we heard
and there is its identity in view,
a presence poised upon a wire, both true
and perfect. Sky is somehow as this bird,
a wonderful reality we learn
appreciation for. But O how new
and great it is each day, a silent presence
here, a singleness, a purity,
a being as beautifully clear as each
sweet bird that perches there, magnificence
above a line of trees, infinity
as near as air and just as out of reach.
I wonder what will come of all of this,
the ceaseless quest to see and understand,
to hold the universe within our hands
while life itself is lifting like a mist.
It turns out everything is but a gift
and like the sea that washes towards land,
its restless waves all breaking on the sand,
in grasping things beyond our reach we miss
all that is constant and profound, our breath,
our consciousness, the motion of our heart
towards another living being. The dawn
of wisdom, long delayed by fear of death,
can come so quietly that we are startled –
and wonder at the fact that we were born.
Today at nightfall summer became cool,
beautiful air accompanies the stars
to make the world another place, a stairway
open in the realm where darkness rules,
a place of mystery, so wonderful,
inviting us to climb till all is far
away, the troubles and concerns that mar
the life of day, the weariness of foolish
pride. The night exalts us all, it wipes away
our tears. Among the stars – we see them open
eyed or in our dreams – we sense a goodness
meant to nourish us, we long to stay.
But soon the day will come again, the broken
path of life adrift from holiness.
How thick and grey the clouds appear today.
Black crows are swooping, silent in the air.
I find within beginnings of despair
have taken root and shoots that early rays
of sunlight seek to find seem here to stay.
Not long before the heavy sky had shared
with us its pain in windswept torrents, baring
agonies it hid for many days.
The cold was bitter, unexpected at
this time when weather usually is serene.
But now the sun appears again, the clouds
begin to part, but I, my heart is black
and though I try to lift my head it seems
impossible to leave this living shroud.
New day is often heard before it’s seen.
The sounds of birds through open windows fills
our ears, their patterned calls amongst the stillness
are the underlay of day, like dreams,
that come before we wake, a silken screen
through which we see the dawn, they stay until
our consciousness has leant to overspill
its banks and wash into the other stream
of morning. When at last we go outside
or part the curtains light is everywhere.
The features of reality are crisp
and clear. Life’s vibrancy is like a tide
that rises unexpectedly, the air
electric, potent with a Godlike mist.
The tree we planted years ago is floating,
filled with flowers, the tiny blossoms pink
against the blue of sky from which it drinks
infinity and flourishes, the soaking
rain that fell last night surrounds, a moat
whose water tiny roots of grass are sinking
in the earth to find. And we who thinking,
wonder at the tree’s ephemeral coat,
are drawn into the mystery of creation’s
pink and green, and like the birds that come
and perch among the flowers, we watch and see
the clouds that slowly bloom. No explanation
is sufficient, silencing each one,
mute witnesses of spring that clothe a tree.
Among the flowering trees I see a dancing
bird, it hops from branch to branch, then in
a moment it is gone, and flying it sings.
From all around are sounds, I turn, my glance
perceives another form I catch by chance
as it swoops by to find where life begins,
a little flower, red or pink, that spring
has brought to be beneath the great expanse
all sunlit there. Their paths criss-cross the realm
of air to drink the liberality
of joyful trees whose nature is to share.
And grateful, they maintain a song that seldom
wanes, as one by one they dance from tree
to tree and curtsey in the sunlit air.
I love to sit here in our garden or
to wait beside a window, knowing that
a poem will come to me from the blackness
of my mind. So often it is small
beginnings, just an opening phrase is all
I need, from it a poem grows, no lack
is there, a simple thought enough perhaps
to be the seed, and soon the patterns fall
like blossoms from the trees, and catching them
or watching as they land upon the ground,
I see a gravity that brings a shape
to gentle words. The rhythm is a stem
on which the flowers form, the rhymes are sounds
of hovering birds, each searching for its mate.
The daylight fades, a single bird is flying
through the air. A life cannot contain
the longing it enfolds, a breath sustains
but here each movement of its wings embracing
all expresses only fear of dying.
Why else do we seek more? What can explain
our restlessness? Like birds, our flight maintained
by currents under us, unseen, a crying
sometimes heard, a presence everywhere,
why should we fear that it should cease? The daylight
fades, a single bird is flying through
the air. Does it depend upon the sun
to keep it there? As night enfolds in grey
the longings of the world, the wind that blew
is blowing still, fulfilment has begun.
A painting of Mount Cook is on our wall,
it looks out on us in our dinning room
that looks in turn out on the sun in bloom
seen through a window, making mountains small
that live with us each day upon a wall.
Or so it seems to us who are attune
to light arising from the sun or moon,
but what of him whose name the canvas calls,
the spirit that conceived the scene within
and worked beside the consciousness of man
to turn a mountain range to paint and ink
and speak to us of that oblivion
in which the sun and moon will turn to sand
and only what remains is what he thinks?
Above the trees the harvest moon, all golden
in the sunlight of a day that is
no more, a floating sphere of light and bliss,
arises now before the night is old.
Its memory of the things that were untold
when earth was clothed in light none can dismiss,
for see – it testifies. The sky is kissed
by gentle rays that like a mist enfold
the atmosphere and earth below, a calm
acceptance of the day that’s passed, but deeply
felt, its sorrows and its joys transfigured
on reflection now – what was for harm,
that once lay hidden in the waking sleep
of day, now bears redemption’s signature.
The mountain points towards the gentle sky –
solidity is tempered by the whiteness
of its sloping sides, reflecting light
as clouds do, echoes of their forms that fly
so effortlessly – into that realm the high
tipped mountain (as a hand that holds a kite
stretched far above, perhaps beyond the sight
of eyes that search for it below – here trying
to comprehend the forces lifting wood
and cloth into the air), the mountain points
into all that is delicate and true,
a witness to what few have understood –
a mandala that the snow anoints –
the throne infinity has set in blue.
A tree was there, so green and beautiful,
its sunlit leaves were weightless in the breeze,
its presence beckoned me, a sight conceived
within a mind unlike my own, so supple
and so free – with joy I watched the subtle
movement of its troop of dancing leaves.
It still was early spring, the newborn tree
was framed within an open doorway, double
to another tree, once found beyond
the flaming gate an angel supervised.
I viewed it from within a darkened room
and wondered, where do we belong?
The beauty of the scene before my eyes,
once ours, could it be now, or is it soon?
A metaphor for our relationship
with God – the branches that surround a tree,
the living core from which the growth we see
emerged and constantly renews, equipped
by earth’s fecundity, its living script
declares each branch’s opportunity
to dwell as one with it, a harmony
we long to find, a principle encrypted
in the covenant he made with man,
initiated and fulfilled when Jesus
came to join the life of earth to heaven.
He is the root, the slender branch I am,
supported and sustained, I know he’s pleased
enfolding us in him, beloved, forgiven.
The Emperor’s Vase
A fish that lived apart from man in streams
was bred in ornamental ponds and now
and then mutated, golden, red or yellow
scales appeared instead of silver. It seemed
so marvellous, a fish we catch in dreams
which when we wake is gone, but here allowed
by destiny to live among us. Crowds
would come to see a water garden’s teeming
magic. It was the custom for a man
to give one to his wife to symbolize
the good years yet to come. A golden sun
is swimming everyday since time began,
at home within the great expanse of sky,
when mankind sees its gold contentment comes.
Are we so blind? We dig beneath the ground
to find the riches that the earth conceals,
a noble cause perhaps, but God reveals
what we can never hope to find – abounding
love, contentment, peace, the gentle sound
of heaven’s sweetness ringing in our ears,
and we are rich who once knew only tears.
For like an arrow from the sun that found
its mark, shoot forth, a living ray of light,
my heart is pierced, I am the one the sun
has reached like first light in the dawn, what was
concealed within my soul in deepest night
is now revealed, and I the goldfish, come
to be the beauty in a crystal vase.
Around me everything appears to be,
from clouds to hills to earth to wind to sea,
all has its own identity, they’re free
to drift across the face of time, and I,
I live here too. Although I’m wonderfully
made, I sometimes think eternity
is what we need to fill the gaps each entry
into life has left. For like a key
unlocks a door, each thing that is is something
more, a symbol of a mystery,
that anything is here at all, and we
are witnesses of this, who know that nothing
will remain, that all will cease to be,
like fruit that disappears beneath a tree.
O Lord, when you created me, I was.
I’ve seen the rising and the setting sun.
So many things that are are not the one.
My spirit sees, my eyes cannot because
he is unknowable, and what he does
my senses lack the speed to even run
behind. He’s gone before they have begun.
But I have sensed another way. To love
the one I cannot see I think is why
I came to be. O Lord will you keep helping
me to still my heart and let you freely
be the undivided one, the sky
in which I am a sun, rising, setting,
able now to see the world more keenly.
I do not shake spears at life
I think I know a word’s worth
I sometimes held her lingering form
I track all little things she gives
Hardiness I do not fear
Its marvellous to have been here
The words he brew inspired me
They bore gestation’s fruit
A leopard easily conceals
I play to find eternity
And though high daggers fall
I do see her
And write until
When I was young I drove into the desert
following a four wheel drive – a man
I met had said he’d guide me through. Alert,
I stayed as close behind him as I could,
but soon his car’s superior power had left
me far away. I watched for clouds of dust
but realised soon their rising forms, adept
to fool a man like me, where floating here
and there above the many roads crisscrossing
gently rising hills and plains – for years
a mining company, exploring near this
place, had laid complex web of tracks.
Eventually I realised I was lost.
I stopped the car beside some trees in scrubby
bushland, there the wind, a force that must
prevail, was blowing through each tree. Into
this emptiness a silence came and I
was filled with fear. Alone and friendless, far
from all I knew, a young man’s journey lying
now unfulfilled, what would I do, was I
to die here, lost, a leaf blown far away
by desert winds? I think that day was when
I first stepped out from home. Released, a ray
of understanding pierced my soul. I looked
at death, the loneliness of meeting it,
its isolating power, with only nature’s
bitter wind and dust its foreign script –
and that is when a thirst for God began.
It is the first and greatest gift,
it woke me from my sleep, and as
a boat gone out to sea, adrift
on waves, becalmed when wind expires,
the hint of breeze or distant sight
of land is what this thirst reminds
me of, a tiny anchor lightly
thrown perhaps, but when it finds
the ocean floor it holds our hearts,
transfixed, unable to return
to life that was before, and starting
now we search the skies to learn
the mystery of our rootlessness
and who it is who calls us home.
The Hebrew prophets mentioned it
and David as a fugitive,
harassed, an exile in the desert
saw a land, that as a sieve
can hold no rain, incapable
of bearing life, and like a thirsty
deer he prayed to find a table
in the heat all set with many
flowing streams. I thirst for you,
the living God, my tongue is parched,
my heart is dry, your words too few
to satisfy, my life a mast
without a sail, your cloud in search
of mountain tops to spill its rain.
Who does not love the sounds of water’s movement?
The rain that falls on summer afternoons,
the drops from gutters mixed with croaking frogs,
a waterfall we come across in bushland,
the distant waves, a fountain in a garden,
the sound of oars that dip into a river.
A desert has an openness, its unlike
other places, more forbidding, yet
horizons like the sea hold promise of
new lands. And when at night the sky is full
our emptiness becomes the vehicle that
simplicity can use to show us all.
When rain falls every part of sky above
is occupied with life. A million drops
are passing swiftly through the air, as love
too fills an empty heart and never stops.
Have I capacity to hold an ocean?
A drop or two would do – a meagre quotient
and my heart would overflow, devotion
I’d bestow to drink such great emotion.
If any man is thirsty let him come
and drink while earth remains beneath the sun.
This afternoon the trees are brittle, summer
winds have dried the air, the light is sharper
now than it was yesterday, a crumb
of sky has fallen here, enough to mark
the atmosphere around us with its heat
and drive our cool despondency away.
When evening comes the crickets’ chirping greets
the languid stars, but hope has come to stay
and restful sleep, our spirits’ womb, will usher
in another day. The season of
the fires will soon appear, but trees are tougher
than we think and after flames have caused
them grief a green exuberance, expected,
but a wonder still, black trunks predict.
How black is black? The night has many kinds:
that of the evening when the sun has gone
and all its light has seeped away; the dawn
is still beyond the hills when black skies climb
above the sinking moon; and midnight finds
us in despair, the starlight on the lawn,
the question in the air, why were we born
and why are we, of all who breath, consigned
to see the blackness of eternity,
the face of death that looks on all we are
and relegates our soul to be a mirror
of the blackest sea. An ant is free
of this, it sees by sunlight, not by stars,
but we, the bearers of the night, must shiver.
The more I look into the sun the blacker
I become. I look away, I’m sadder
by the day. My eyes have not the power
to see. A sickness growing in a flower,
meant to watch the sky, has by the hour
diminished it, its petals wilt, a bitter
lot to be the one whose destiny
to flourish in the golden light is ruined
by the sun – for who was it who let
the sickness come? What germ or creature
in a flower has power to be – the sun
has given it its black identity?
And I who look into its face despair
and blackness falls on me from everywhere.
If deserts are the place where revelation,
born from alienation and despair,
begins its burning passage through the air
of hearts as vacant as the land the sun
has cursed, then who am I to flinch or shun
the darkness that descends or blankly stare
into a night where stars alone are there?
In emptiness the mind retreats, the motion
of the clouds and sun that slowly cross
the face of earth, the tiny flowers that track
the light, the wind that catches grains of sand
while sweeping desert floors – it is our loss
that helps us now, our thirst, our sense of lack,
these stepping stones bring us to other lands.
I do not shakespeares at life
I think I know a wordsworth
I sometimes holderlingering form
I trakl little things she gives
Hardyness I do not fear
Its marvellous to have been here
The words hebrew inspired me
They borgestation’s fruit
A leopardisily conceals
I plato find eternity
And though heideggers fall
And wright until
‘e go ‘er go