The World Before Us


For Hugh


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.





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.





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.



The Unborn


Now when I think about 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 will bend

the strongest trees. The weight of snow demands.

Time’s at our gate. Our 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.





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.





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.



And us


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.





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


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.

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