your name is for the living
January, May, June 2013
Today and yesterday, tomorrow too,
your tender hands are there. They hold a son
unlike so many sons, and yet the one,
the only one, for life’s intents are true,
the boy that love has given you. And few
are those who live amidst life’s ordinary
ways that understand simplicity.
Simplicity is in your home, it grew,
a desert plant in sand, and watered by
your tender hands it flowers in the sky.
Are you alone? The sweetest harmony
is open fifths and thirds. Your constancy
is part of one great envelope of sound,
harmonics on an elemental ground.
My wife loves watering our garden, early
on a sunny day. A little bird
is skipping near, a joy without a word.
The water leaves the leaves refreshed, curly
shoots are climbing there, new emergence
from the fertile soil; an ant explores
the darkened litter, minors start to call.
The summer finds her here, the nurturer
of day. The silent clouds withhold for now
the purpose of the sun, and even rain
begins to fall as distant thunder sounds.
Prepared, the garden needs no rain, its dowry
paid beneath a canopy of shade
where basil, mint and parsley can be found.
from Mount Fuji – all
vanishing like the
of white – long ago
mountain – adrift by
mount dipped in
cloud – can old age be
waves break all
around – still you point
to the sky
as yesterday – your
flush – now children are
when the snow
returns to the clouds
what is left
sea of trees
in sight of
in sight of
is earth your home
or the sky
city – cooled by one
big ice cream
are you a
the ageless ages –
a weathered tomb
in the dew
At times we catch reflections of ourselves,
a silent pool, a puddle left by rain,
our presence leaves a mark, a steady flame.
Whose eyes are they whose glance appears to delve
beneath the surface of our soul like bells
that fill the evening air with resonance?
The background is the infinite expanse,
the border soil and rocks and grass, the smell
of nature, chirping birds, the cricket’s call.
We do not look for long into those eyes,
the motion of our steps that brought us there
propels us past the pool, reflections fall
like arrows, life’s ascent towards the sky
forgotten now like bells diffused in air.
My childhood room looked out upon a bay.
Today the wind has marked its length and breadth,
a thousand tiny waves, a kinesthesis
that the sea provides the wind as grey
clouds move across the winter sky. I stay
inside and watch the wind, invisible
to it, yet its invisibility
as clear as day to me. I used to play
not far from here on grey escarpments weathered
by the sky. The wind has marked me too,
I am the evidence of unseen worlds.
And secrets of the soul within are tethered
to the years that pass, the life we knew
revealed by time like canvas sails unfurled.
A mask revealing more than it conceals,
the world invisible and visible
has left its imprint. Unmistakable,
the one we have become. We blindly reel
eternity towards our boat and feel
the swell of God beneath. The wind has tossed
our aging hair, the ocean that we’ve crossed
oblivious. So solitary, our keel
that pushes through the waves. We are the face
of our short years, the weathering of a storm,
the funeral mask of death, an imprint made
to be the prelude, not the play, the place
our history passes through, a winter dawn
unfolding to the beauty of the day.
The sharpest blade is sky
dividing soul from spirit
sun from wind
Through an open door
enters the sound of day
the wind and birds
Our very old dog
paces the wooden floor
restless to see
Daylight floods the room
lighter than air
The planet turns towards the closest star
and all the currawongs begin to sing.
In distant trees, united as a spring,
they imitate the music of the spheres.
The sun has lit the face of half the moon,
all else is blue. A wind has caught the trees
and ripples through their sea of sunlit leaves.
I stand, a witness to a world in bloom.
Horizons circle, bright where day was born.
A tiny sparrow sings, the shadows softly
rest upon a bed of grass or shelter
at the base of trees. The earth is sworn
to sky, and turning eastward modestly,
unveiled, it looks into the face that melts her.
The sky is our companion, mirror image
of each one who lies beneath its gaze.
We see ourselves, and strangely, in a blaze
of recognition, heaven sees its visage
in our humble forms. A mountain ridge
divides the coastland from the plains, a blue
escarpment hinting at a world that’s true,
the sky is both a mirror and a bridge,
inviting us to look beyond what is
to what is not, a visionary world,
the structure of another age where we,
who only know this side of time, will live –
a pale reflection, marked within by swirls,
the spiral forms of distant galaxies.
A view of ocean, far as eye can see,
and here beneath my feet, firm ground. Is this
where futures are decided, options missed
and what we hoped would never be, will be?
I stand upon a cliff where wind swept trees
look out towards the ending of the world.
Before me rocks have fallen in the void,
engulfed by the dull thunder of the sea.
At night this is the clearest sign, and so
our blindness needs its steady roar to warn
us from this path. My voice, being added too,
shall be the sounding of a wave, that thrown
against the shore, expends itself, till dawn
reveals the tragedy in starkest view.
By ourselves there is so much that we
can do – the daily trips, the food we eat,
the purchases from near and far, the seats
on flights for holidays – there is a fee
of misery which others soon must pay
for all these little things that each of us
entail. Our drops make oceans. Few discuss
the implications of their lives, the way
our culture leads. To halt its slow advance –
what can we do? Those little changes made –
the sacrifices, transformed attitudes
are just the start of something great, a lance
into the wound. We drive it deep, afraid
but true, our duty in this interlude.
Call to Me
Call to me and I will answer you
and show you great things. This is how He spoke
to Jeremiah – dreams gone up in smoke
and little left to comfort him. It’s true
our home, this earth, will one day be renewed,
but we, like him, are prophesying a city’s
fall. A distant hope – what good is it,
when what we see ahead is only ruins?
Yet God has called – call out to me. Who knows
what He may do? Our world has little light,
a tragedy of ignorance and greed,
an avalanche that tumbles through the snow
and swallows everything into its night,
but underneath they grow, the future’s seeds.
Like silence, certainty is hard to find,
the noise of life distorts reality
and skews us from the truth. The single eye,
commended in the gospels, is the blind’s,
they see with greater purity, a sign
to all, when in a crowd they recognize
the footsteps of the King. A clarity
is in the air for mountain tops to shine.
A silted harbour blocks the ships – a dredge
must come to clear a way. We need the patience
of enquiry, time to sift, the insights
of a noble mind – a privilege,
to search for truth, a project of endurance,
holy company escorts the light.
How can we weigh responsibility?
Each action has a consequence, some small,
some large. It seems in this great issue all
we do contributes, like a city,
street by street in dense complexity
the problem exponentially expands.
It seems our way of life is built on sand.
The issue is of stark simplicity –
the future is made captive to our greed,
a billion lives are forfeit. Every time
we turn the engine on, a poverty
is there – for we decrease as other’s needs
are more. There is a mountain we must climb –
to see the multitudes with clarity.
Silently the journey ends that started
with a flame. A generation lived
like kings, forgetting those who’d come to give
their lives to pay the bill. And now, outsmarted
by the forces that our hardened hearts
ignored, it is our children cursed to work
the barren soil. A weight – to be the ark
that carries nature hence, to play a part
in how the poorest fall into a greater
poverty – this is a solemn thought –
to usher life into another age.
How grave, that we should be the curse of later
times, a web of fate in which we’re caught,
an urgent call to turn another page.
When Jesus saw the world in pain he offered
up his life. There is an otherworldly
power in a martyr’s death. Though cold,
impregnable and high, a range is often
breached by morning sun, and kindness softens
brittle hearts once locked away by grief.
Selflessness is like a wind, both brief
and pure, its gusts are strong enough to open
wooden doors, to send a ship across
the sea, to bring the rain, to lift a prophet
heavenward, to turn a world in pain
into a different world. There is a loss
that we must find within to bear, a profit
that a sacrifice will surely gain.
As always, song begins in failing light.
It is a testament to how they loved
the day, that birds all join to sing above.
Perhaps they fear the coming of the night
and know that, in rejoicing, their delight
is like a dream that will continue. Soon
they settle in the trees and sleep. A moon
appears and stars begin their lonely bright
encircling of the sky. Attentively,
we listen to their song, in hope of learning
all we can – for we all face the ending
of our lives, and soon eternity
will beckon us. And so we each discern
what is within that keeps our hearts from bending.
I took a flight to India last year.
Who can conceive a water source that fails,
not just for some but for a nation? Pale,
the sky on winter days is rarely clear.
The rising clouds from cities smoking near
is not the only thing they face. A hidden
cloud has covered all the earth, unbidden,
silently it grows. To have a fear
of this is what we lack. Relentlessly,
it melts the mountain ice, the glaciers
on which a billion lives depend. And I,
I took a flight near there last year, to see
a people I hold dear, and now, a seer,
I discern my guilt before their eyes.
These words are somehow different to men’s words,
although men wrote them long ago. A landscape
covered with the snow, a parting handshake
warmly given, silence we have heard –
these words are somehow different things, like birds
whose welcome calls are constant through the years,
as fresh as dawn, and wise, as night draws near.
From age to age their testimony has stirred.
Men wrote of what they’d seen and mysteries
revealed, and in the craft of writing, careful
with each word and phrase and echo, what
remains is like a field of snow tipped trees,
a parting handshake, warmly made, a prayerful
voice the silence stirs, a wedding knot.
Sometimes I cannot bear what we’ve become,
my people are compatriots in crime,
though ignorant, eventually the time
draws near to take account of what we’ve done –
extinguishers of human hopes, the ones
responsible for genocide – unplanned,
but just a real as that of evil hands.
The voice of other life beneath the sun,
unheard in any human court, resounds
to speak for all the voiceless ones whose right
to be is stolen. Knowing now the cost
of modern life, we stand on holy ground –
atonement must be sought while there is light,
and change embraced before so much is lost.
Twelve thousand years of human culture – times
of flourishing, a climate temperate
and kind, indeed it was a perfect state,
a sweet parameter for us to shine.
The sun, in passing from us will incline
towards the west, imperceptibly
at first, the shadows lengthen noticeably
before the world grows dark. A church bell’s chime
commemorates the solemn times of year.
Today it is the scientists who warn.
The halcyon days are passing. Human culture
has a night. To heed their words with fear
is what is needed in these days. Forlorn
and harsh, the future’s sky is full of vultures.
Before the Curtain
Perhaps it all shall end before it starts,
the sunrise come before the night – the Son
of Man at last returned, that what’s begun
may be reborn. Prediction is an art,
we have no claim to it. A longing heart
is all we have and all we need. But what
of this poor world? The fire may not stop,
the children in the furnace will depart.
Luther said that he would plant a tree.
The world continues till the trumpet’s call,
we must attend to it. The Good Samaritan
still stopped and helped the broken man, the fee
was paid three days ahead. The curtain falls,
but we for now must do all that we can.
Here in my home, Australia, few actions
match our words. The hand that limits carbon
now releases it – abandoning
our principles, the savings are a fraction
of the plumes we send abroad. A faction
of society demands, and we
obey. A great responsibility
rests on our nation’s shoulders. Inaction
will condemn us – soon our mines will be
among the greatest. Influence is good,
if used to help mankind. Ours could be great,
with coal left underground. Morality –
of power that is rarely understood –
this country could embrace and celebrate.
The sun retreats into the western sky.
So gradual is its long descent that when
the night has come we are surprised. It lends
to us its warmth that we may live. I try
to comprehend its majesty which ties
all life to it. They’re silhouetted now –
the stately trees before the orange glow.
The stars produced the elements of life.
I recognize their Maker. We have tampered
with the systems of His world. This gift
of light mankind has made a curse. The great
exchange of energy is slowed and hampered.
Gradually our pride begins to lift,
we contemplate our terrible mistake.
High up from here, far, far away, his kingdom
is. And we, beneath each star that crosses
overhead, are people who have lost
their way – an inner sun has set and seldom
rises in the darkness of our wisdom.
No one wants it so. Its light was sweet,
and sometimes we are privileged to greet
its morning rays, refracting in our prison.
There is a story of a man like this.
They took away his liberty, and waiting
in a darkened cell for certain death,
a light awoke him. I cannot dismiss
its relevance. We are the ones creating
night, while longing for the morning’s breath.
Each morning when we wake we see the sky.
On cloudy days, without the sun, a sadness
settles. Shall I tell you how this sadness
lifted? It was gradually. Life flies
away, but joy, that through the night lies
on the grass, in daylight slowly melts.
It was so real, the mystery I felt,
like stalactites that form far from our eyes,
the numinous in warm fertility
would drip. My daughter has an infant class,
each drawing, stark, original – the product
of a mind still innocent. To be
is an experiment, a half filled glass.
Day turns again, the willing to instruct.
We seldom know the purpose of our lives.
It is a thing too great, perhaps too small.
The Jewish sages taught one thing is all
that we are here to do. The scrolls are five,
elucidating everything to prize –
a law of life. But sages said that man,
they found, was often called to one command,
in keeping it God’s heart was satisfied.
A man that failed would be reborn, to do
what he had left undone – a single act
of faithfulness, a word, unspoken in
the air, now spoken and forever new
inside an empty heart. This thing we lack
it’s true – so he implants the seed, within.
It’s unimaginable, the sorrow soon.
When numbers grow through millions to beyond
our minds are left behind. It would be wrong
to say we understood. A flower blooms
and we are moved. Our soul is pitched in tune
with other souls, we feel the dissonance
when sorrow sounds in them. But this abundance
overwhelms us. Suffering in bloom –
in orchard after orchard, spilling over
each horizon found until another’s
seen – no soul can contemplate. We must
retreat. But even this is sobering –
imagination, feebly seeing our brothers,
teaches us to not betray their trust.
Now when I think about all this – the ending
of a world I’ve known, not only I,
but all those generations that have died
in knowledge that their world remains – defending
the unborn becomes a call. They lend
the world to us. Our gifting to their time
shall be the meditation of my mind.
An avalanche from high above can bend
the strongest trees. The weight of snow demands.
Time’s at our gate. These city walls cannot
withstand its surge. To cry defeat and join
their side – that is our option. Love commands
us to comply, our profligacy stop,
to mint their unseen faces on our coin.
We live with animals around, our brothers
when we think of it – for we are one
of them. Their faces look upon the sun
as we. Their nations and their tribes, another
great society, their peoples lovers
of their kin, who live and die to see
their future in. Their culture’s history,
for most, is more august than ours, they suffer
our superiority. Their God,
I think, is ours, though we have made his will
to be destructive to their lives. And now
a great idolatry, that makes a god
of us, has risen, their own blood to fill
the temples of our greed – to this we bow.
Today the reading past four hundred parts
per million. Once there was an arrow aimed
at nowhere in a battle, yet it came
to pierce the armour of a king. His heart
was where this arrow flew, he was its mark,
unknown to all excepting God. His reign
was one of infamy, his worship vain,
and reckless greed he raised to be an art.
One day he saw the future’s face and feared.
His fasting and his cries, the eloquence
of true humility, God noticed – hope
drew near. But on that day in latter years
he died with nothing changed. Could we this once
the future fear, and turn the arrow’s slope?
A requiem with beauty speaks. The lofty
sadness is appropriate, its lift
and fall is life’s. It tries to heal the rift
of death with all its art. The rain that softly
falls today has shrouded everything. It costs
us nothing, yet its steady rhythm comforts.
Latin words like water flow, escorting
us on sound, like funeral boats that cross
the Styx. We live surrounded by a world
so beautiful, it sings in everything.
The biosphere on which all life depends,
the history of humanity unfurled
through time, together are what beauty sings,
escorting us, enriched, unto our end.
A Christian, like their master, loves the good,
and patiently or swiftly acts. In this
debate calamity – that some, dismissing
all that science claims is understood,
ignore – this current crisis – is what should
be foremost in our minds. I know it’s right
to share the Gospel, shining its bright light
in death, awaking the new born. But would
I be mistaken now to add to that
the burden of this hour? What good
to be the one to offer this new life,
neglecting where calamity now sat
awaiting our demise, no Christian would –
the burning bush becomes a Mount Sinai.
Our culture teaches us to want, and wanting
more is like a trap, that opens, taking
all. It teaches us to live a waking
dream where nothing lasts, a false accounting
where each thing is valued less, while, dreaming
still, we long for more. What is the answer?
This pernicious, ever-growing cancer,
left unchecked, all life will soon demean.
Once born in Western man, it resonates,
no culture is immune. It grips the heart.
Empowered by oil and coal, its influence
is deep, year after year it decimates.
An antidote, quarantined apart –
simplicity’s surpassing affluence.
His life was forfeit, seeing our misery.
No answer for a world in pain except
to offer more, a flood of it that left
our hearts in fear that such a love could be.
The salty tears of those who watched their freedom
dawn that day, turned into quiet joy
like mornings after rain. What was destroyed
begins again. He asks of us that we,
who share his joy, may share his life of pain,
and like the moon that brightly shines then fades,
as summer’s flowers, we, content would be
to change with passing hours. And so to reign –
an influence, unseen upon the tide,
to turn our age towards the heavenly.
A Little Thing
It is a little thing – to go without.
Not necessarily that much – perhaps
a thing or two. Our world will not collapse
and soon we shall grow used to it. We doubt
that we could manage – people are devout
about the ordinary, little wonder
that society is slow to change. The thunder
there, that rumbled frequently throughout
the summer past, unsettles us. A storm
is near. A ship in strife will throw its useless
cargo overboard. Will we? And what
of those who profit from our need? Reformed,
an alcoholic learns the power to choose.
We’ll send them broke – severed, the Gordian knot.
When summer comes the western sky extends –
the sun must travel further, hours are added
to the day. And to the east time gradually
shifts, and dawns appear to be suspended
in the atmosphere. Our view depends
on where in time we are. A winter night
is just their mirror, full of points of light,
advancing through the gates of day, transcendent.
Which time of year are we? Our world’s
beginnings shine in eastern skies, but now
I fear, the stars of a remoter age
ascend. The light constricts, the night unfurled
sets sail with the insignia of power
to write our history on another page.
To you our lives were long ago – you mention
us from time to time. From where you stand
we all take on a different hue. A grand
awakening – to have an apprehension
of the past the future sees. Convention
says we need the luxury of time
to see with truer understanding. Fine,
let’s try to grasp its full dimensions.
We are founders of your age, heroic
pioneers, without our contribution
life would not be as it is. In fact
so many will not be, and mothers, stoic
at this fact, are gathering dry roots
in lands once prosperous, now barren tracts.
We heard the names read out, one after one –
they stretched across the hours – on the occasion
of the innocent remembered. Saying
them clearly was a way to honour them.
There were three thousand names that day, begun
at nine o’clock, continuing till two.
I could not help but think – and so they grew –
six million names, familiar once, by heathen
men annulled, the tens of millions lost
in war. But other names, as countless as
the stars, demand another destiny.
The billions wait beside the sea, to cross
impossibility and live. His passion
has decreed that life must always be.
The angle of the earth determined how
its climate would unfold. The rise and fall
of temperatures, some so extreme, were all
results of this. A tiny tilt allowed
the sun to steadily increase in power
and in influence – the rise of temperatures
ensued. This principle of course endures –
another force is operating now.
The angle of the heart of man inclines
towards the west. His waywardness is bound
to ancient trees. But those who taste forbidden
fruit, we know, eventually will find
that paradise turns into thirsty ground,
and sorrows comes like unseen winds, unbidden.
The Christ is said to be the son of David,
how then can He be his Lord? He asked
them this, the greatest one of all, whose task
was then to educate before he saved.
A principle perhaps is in this phrase.
What is, is like a womb of something more,
its features have the marks of distant shores,
eternity appears before the grave.
Each thing has value inwardly, and holds,
in perfect equilibrium, its dual
identity – a place within the chain
of being, and yet, an origin of old,
a spark of what it soon shall be. The cruelty
that He bore was hatred of these claims.
The stars are high tonight. I sometimes think
that there are more of them than us. I know
that Abraham witnessed the future so –
his nameless progeny amidst the inky
sky. I understand their power to link
us to the future of mankind. It’s only
in more recent times that distant zones
of space have been revealed, and tiny twinkling
stars in countless multitudes appeared
where none had been before. But what of those
they represent – if they should never be?
If putting down our telescopes made sheer
abundance disappear? God never chose
it to be thus, and never too, should we.
Where are they?
The clouds keep parting from us over hills
as if they’ve never been. What difference, now
that they are gone? Perhaps to go allows
that there be more. Some may agree. But still
we wonder if there is a heart to will
that this be so. We are of course referring
elsewhere. Every day their forms defer
to the same destiny. It makes us ill.
Sometimes we wake to cloudless skies. If weather
patterns hold they may go on for days –
in deserts it may be for years. Tell me
friend, what would you do? A thing we never
thought would be is settling here to stay.
Where have they gone, the ones come after me?
Australia should stop exporting coal.
What once was ignorance becomes a crime
when knowledge comes. It’s right to draw a line,
a statement to the world, both fresh and bold –
a people come to do as they are told
by conscience, ethics, evidence and precious
commonality. Should not the death
of multitudes because of what it sold
give pause to any nation? Can we bear
this great responsibility? It’s us
who hold the coal reserves and infrastructure –
we export so easily. Declare,
Australia, where you stand. Debate, discuss
this issue. Listen to how love instructs.
Sodom’s skies are filled with darkness, fire
rains down. Cities fall for reasons other
than those often told. The law – when brothers
meet a brother from a distant shore,
duty bound, they honour him, enquiring
of his needs, and lavishly provide.
But watch the stranger’s treatment now – outside
the house the citizens appear, desiring
to bring shame to those that sought to shelter
there. The prophet said their sins were these –
both arrogant and overfed, they all were
unconcerned. The proud are not the helpers
of the poor. And us? Your honour, please
excuse us here, for we were unaware.
Good night. The earth has closed its eye to sleep.
The dawn awaits it, hidden at the other
side. In silence now we mourn the brothers
and the sisters that the earth now keeps.
For lives cut short, for suffering, we weep.
What could have been, but is not – for this
we mourn, and fill our pillows with our tears –
for great appointments that we failed to keep.
And bitterly they flow, as time reveals
what is, but need not be, if time could ever
take a different path. The night deepens.
The tears appear like stars. A trumpet peals.
We glimpse the other side of night. Its never
ceasing shadows in the dawning, lengthen.
Carbon shows no partiality –
all men are equal under its law. Rich
and poor, from criminals to missionaries,
each share a common currency – for any
one emission is the same, and every
tonne that is released will go into
our common atmosphere. But some are barons
in this black economy, who empty
wallets full, while others only coins.
These are the ones – including us perhaps –
an aristocracy, whose profligacy
impoverishes. A foolishness to join
their ranks, the wise in heart avoid the trap.
For nothing is impossible with you –
in other’s crises, and his own, these words
were freshly said. What others thought absurd
he grasped in its immensity. He viewed
the earth as eagles do, their thoughts attune
to boundless air. He was no prisoner here.
His life, he knew, was never his, and fear
of losing it he could not fear. It’s true
he once reached out into the boundless sky
to ask if his desire to live, so strong
and pure, might bend before another wind.
But that is why he came to be, to die
for other’s liberty, and turn to song
the bitterness of living trapped within.
Why is it that you are so beautiful?
A face that shines impartially, a heart
so kind. Each thing that we call good once started
in your mind, and flowers now in fullness
in your time. A mirror here until
the end, our face reflects your countenance
when we look in your eyes. Experience
will not decrease, but shine it brighter still,
the great reality of knowing you.
The blind you love to make them see, the deaf
to hear their destiny – to speak the world
that you behold into existence. Few
can see it at this time, when life, bereft
of knowing you, towards the darkness hurls.
The moon has little strength – its borrowed light
must often be returned, and vulnerable,
it hides unclothed in darkness. Parables
will speak to us if we take time. A brightness
shines on them. It’s said the greatest insights
are like veins of gold, for often humble
rocks disguise, and unprepared, we stumble
on the truth that’s hidden there. Night
contains more than we think. We should not fear.
To be stripped bare and wait – though we’d prefer
another way – the moon instructs us how.
The poor would once take out a loan, uncleared,
they’d pledge their cloak. The rich could not defer
to give it back at night – I see it now.
The moon is dying. Night by night it fades.
I cannot tell if it returns the light
with willingness or not. There is no fight,
so its relinquishment is not a slave’s,
but equanimity as men behave
who know their freedom and their fate. A beauty
marks its passing – silently the dew
is formed beneath its crown. And then – it gave
no more. The light returns to whence it came,
the moon to dust – for dust it is and dust
is where it now returns. The darkness swallows
all. When we return it is the same.
Who cannot then with pure delight – I trust
it so – in seeing the moon, serenely follow?
The sun I think must love us, see how it
returns and takes its place again above
our world. Its manner is to give its love
at first with such humility that starlit
night, caught by surprise, must soon submit
to newborn light, which rising, shows its colours
everywhere – for unrestrained, its ardour
grows. How can it be that we are fit
for such attention? Wonderfully, the sun
each afternoon descends, a holy dove
awakening our minds. As hour by hour
its passion grows, and so, a death begun,
it wistfully at last takes leave, its love
like petals, closing, one by one – a flower.
It’s here, the time to take a stand. It’s not
always, for what we do has consequences –
history overwhelms our weak defence.
Within the halls of time we’ve reached a spot
ahead of which the future is so hot
and fierce that death itself appears to be
the most expected possibility
for much of life on earth. There is a lot
to do that cannot wait. A speeding train –
we know the scene from films where just ahead
the track leads to a precipice, and there
before them are the points to change – the same
decision waits for us. Our daily bread –
these things to do, we eat and don’t despair.
What will it cost? Our souls are future’s bread.
What we will give is nourishment to other
mouths. He said his flesh was food, uncovering
truths they had forgotten since the bread
from heaven fell. For did not God, instead
of hiding from their pain, come down and see
their misery, and thus commit to free
their children from the chains? And so he led
them out, a fire at their head, and daily
left a fragment of himself for them
as bread. We only have ourselves to give.
It’s said by some it was not bread today
he spoke about – tomorrow’s food is mentioned
as his aim. For them we are to live.
It passes by with regularity,
a lifetime is its human measurement.
Some see at their beginning and their end,
a strange summation of mortality.
It sees what we have all become, no pity
in its eye, its visit swift, it grasps
a slice of our humanity, a vast
uncharted darkness is its destiny.
The records state – collected over great
expanses of our history – that thirty
times its fiery trail was seen. When it
appears again what will we be? Too late
by then to change. A little thing, unworthy
of eternity, but oh so bitter.
When you appeared in nineteen eighty six,
there in the mountains, on an autumn night,
the southern skies displayed a foreign light –
a comet’s visit intersected with
your visit to this world. They say it is
coincidental, yet I wonder why.
Some twins, through separation, are denied
a common life, brought up perhaps by different
families. If they should meet again
in distant years we’d note identity.
But in between what darkness have they seen?
The silent stars above the steady rain –
invisible, the dark celestial city,
intersecting streets of what has been.
All I have been you’ve looked upon, I am
all that you see, the days I do not know
are bright to you. A grain of sand below
expansive sky, among the billions fanned
by wind, your eye keeps all that you began.
Who is more precious than the one you look
upon? Yet every name is in your book,
and like a mother with a child, you cannot
cease your tender gaze. For every grain
upon the shore is near the ocean’s sound.
A family whose numbers stretch towards
infinity, each being that lives remains,
the apple of your eye, the one who’s found
the multiplicity of love is broad.
Your face is now half covered by the sun
that shines on you through our uncovered window.
The autumn leaves outside already blend
into the scene, their colours match the one
the light has painted on your face. The sun,
so distant in reality, is here
with us – the particles of dust appear
like tiny moons lit up, just like the one
they each are microcosms of. Your face
is as an icon here, its light is but
an image of a deeper truth. Another’s
face has crossed our countenance, it stays,
forever marking us. The door is shut –
it shines within, the grace that made us brothers.
For surely if we understood that action
now could spare a multitude, just think
what we would do. We’d find a way to sink
an anchor firmly in. To find some traction
is the issue, lacking it, inaction
rules. This is required – the sight of prophets.
Those who would need only this – an honest
person’s willingness to climb. A fraction
of the tragedy can now be seen
upon this plain of common thought. The mountains
call, their air is clear. But prophets are
misunderstood, a lonely life, unseen,
ignored, is frequently their lot. They count
the cost and faithfully endure like stars.
Our problem is the opposite – before
a spacious land with grapes upon the vine
they saw the cities giants had designed,
concluding then that failure was the law
encoded for their lives. Our quest is more,
a world is our responsibility,
but on the whole it is the good we see,
not towering breakers rolling into shore.
The saw the bad, and seeing did not discern
the favour with them that would turn it all
around. But we – we often see the good,
the silver lining in the cloud. To learn
to look at evil times, to scale the walls
of wishful minds – this angels understood.
It is so personal – this thing called life.
Beginning in the womb identity
is there, a mystery so deep. A city
too is like a living being. A knife
can separate us limb from limb. A midwife
often sees the coming of another,
each an individual like their mother.
Cities have complexity, their strife
and vibrancy we call their character.
But who would really say that they are one?
And we – although death tears apart – continue.
Living things – a trillion sentient creatures –
have this quality. They have begun
the showing of God’s face, his tiny windows.
What would you do if you knew? Questions take
some time to answer, this I realise,
especially if they make demands. A life
may sometimes be among those implicated.
If it’s ours we soon see what’s at stake.
When fingers find at last a place to point,
to change the subject then will disappoint
awakened consciences. It is too late.
Returning to what once was shared, the views
of our contemporaries, is nothing but
betrayal. Blood that passes through the heart
exerts itself against the walls, the tissue
sometimes fails, a blockage is enough
for danger. Life demands we play our part.
His ethics grew in fertile soil, their roots
were in the Torah. Trees that are majestic
grow as much beneath the surface, lest
their stature be ungrounded. Tender shoots
give way to trunks, uplifting life in beauty
to the sky. It is simplicity,
how carbon molecules become a tree.
Before it, every tongue is as the mute,
our multitude of laws like stacks of cards,
unsteady in the breeze, our good intentions
multiplied like weeds. Humanity
is choked by incapacity. Too hard
for us to keep – so love is all you mention.
The living things emerged to offer glory,
many voices in the choir. All
have value – who are we to say which call
could safely be excised? Illusory,
our place as soloist, it is a story
of our own. What orchestra exists
where one performer overpowers the rest?
Each plays a part, their beauty momentary
in one apocalypse of sound. It’s not
unknown for choirs to host composers in
their ranks, a joyful voice included among
peers. When You came down it did not stop,
You joined creation’s praise as one within
the multitude, where every song belongs.
The place where I was called was where I was
conceived. How strange that two beginnings meet
like that. I woke, as daylight touched my feet,
with such a simple question. My first cause
was found within my parent’s lives – the laws
are clear, each one proceeds from those before.
But what of the beginning? When that door
was opened wide it was His face I saw.
And then I knew He had been here, and I
was His eternally. Beginnings are
a window, from the seed we see the branches
of a full grown tree. A clear blue sky
is overhead, encircling us like stars,
in singing birds the light of heaven flashes.
I think you were a simple man who cared
about the world. The moon and stars were set
in place according to design, each letter
of their law divine, yet little fair
upon the earth. With inner beauty rare
you came to know the misery of man
estranged, alone, and felt your Father’s plan
pulsating in your veins, and soon, aware
that sorrow comes as torrents, flowing swiftly,
placed yourself within its waters, knowing
you would drown. A man who cared too much
to let the world go on, it marked you deeply.
We who know that bitter winds are blowing,
turning now our faces, feel their touch.
They showed a photo of a little bird,
excited that they’d seen it recently –
endangered birds of course are rarities
few have the pleasure to be near. I heard
a sound of joy, an honour undeserved,
that they beheld it personally and witnessed
its uniqueness passing by. It is
a solemn thing to speak our final words
to family. We feel inadequate,
and yet we know we must, and so we thank
them for their lives and comfort with our love.
They watched the bird, so free and delicate,
in calm assurance landing near – it drank
and quickly flew away, like Noah’s dove.
Today, while listening, understanding came.
This music speaks to me far better than
biographies. Its ebb and flow, its planning
and its subtleties, the notes, like rain
that falls, refreshing us – it is his name
the music speaks, the subtleties and details
of a man I’ll never know. Betrayal
marks each personality the same –
the way that time, our friend, erases us.
But here, in notes upon a page, he lives
again, and we, who only know his face
in faded portraits, meet him face to face
in fragile sound. And so the joy it gives
away is resurrected from the dust.
It was the first day of winter when
you told us. How silently the seasons turn.
Today seemed so like yesterday – discerning
change amidst the ordinary, like friends
we recognize within a crowd, depends
on thoughtfulness. A thread is weaved through time,
connecting day to day. His eye is fine
whose handiwork it is, with skill he blends
each colour there, according to his vision.
Watching all, he knows our destiny,
accompanying us from room to room. And we,
who hear this winter day, give our permission –
within life there are epiphanies,
the one we love departs from us so sweetly.
My face is not the one I looked upon,
the years transform, though memories of a face
in photos is my reference, empty spaces
grow between our times. The sun that shone
is not the one I see, the past belongs
to others. As I look today at my
reflection, it is someone else who tries
to manifest themselves. Am I wrong,
or is it there my mother’s face I see,
or features of my grandfather, or ones
unknown to me? The boy has disappeared –
though features of his world’s geography
remain like rivers, glowing in the sun,
or distant mountains, untouched by the years.
As the earth turns from the sun the stars’
ascendancy begins. The constellations
silently are journeying. Great nations
used to follow caribou in polar
latitudes. These galaxies in far
off winter skies awaken hunger in
our eyes, their freedom infinite like wind
upon the tundra. We who live in solar
times, before the night consumes the sky,
are wise when with sobriety we think
about such things. Is this our fate, to be
custodians of certainties that fly
from us? In deeper waters we must drink,
where stars reflect, like beacons on the sea.
Your years are like a cluster full of grapes,
left hanging on the vine. Attending them
with tenderness, the farmer takes a stem
and draws it to his heart. This is the shape
of what will be. Look how the hour is late,
and silence grows within the western sky.
All that we do is not what meets his eye,
but what we show – a vintage that is great
is in our eyes, our mouths, our ears – the light
that shines from who we are. The wine to be
is meant for heaven’s tables. Sweet and pure,
it carries fragrance of the summer’s brightness,
when it lay concealed in ordinary
things, whose love and tenderness endure.
religion in stone in religion
the surface lives –
and the depths
all that is
all that is
passed here and will