Ice Caps




Ice Caps                                   


It’s Said                                   

De Profundis                           

A Tree in Winter                     










John Carroll   

October 2012




Ice Caps


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

of sand.


The wind is blowing.

Trees all move before

the backdrop of blue

sky. The sky is silent

and still.


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.


So silently.











It’s Said


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.




De Profundis


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

John’s done[1]






Ego ergo[2]








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

Iddo seer

And wright until

John’s donne



‘e go ‘er go