Monday, July 15, 2019

I am the Soil

I am the soil you planted
I am the soil you sang
You are the seed that carries life
Into the heart of man.

I am the weedy desert
I am the shallow soil
And the world’s birds find lodgement here
Come to frustrate your toil.

You who are seed and sower
The only life I know
Dig me down deep and bring your plough;
Water and weed and sow.

That there might be a harvest
Out of the heart of me
Hold back your scythe a longer while
Till I am whole and free.

Monday, July 08, 2019


This is the dry, dry season, sere and spare
The cracked, bare earth becomes, itself, a prayer.

The heart feels dried down to a baking bone
Where every drop of water dies alone.

The breath of heat has shrivelled up the shade
And trees forget the reason they were made.

Nothing is ample, nothing rich or lush,
The dried grass shrinks, the silence seems to crush.

The soul is gasping, struggling for its breath,
The movement and the effort feel like death.

Rain were a mercy almost beyond prayer
But oh, when mercy falls, all life is there.

And should a little wind stir forth a cloud,
That were enough to be all unfaith’s shroud.

Monday, May 06, 2019

In Memoriam, RHE

Stars in your courses, sing your far cold songs
And show how love lights up the silvered night;
And while we fumble in the sorrowed dark
Your beauty guides us where we have no sight.

We are the exiles in the land of death
Far from our rest, far from that better strand
Where peace and glory need no sun nor moon,
That blessed place built by a nail-scarred hand.

We mourn, as mourn we must, for beauty gone
Too soon away, we mourn the silenced tongue,
We mourn the empty place where once she stood,
We mourn the grace-songs which remain unsung.

We mourn for those of hers who mourn the most,
The deep-bereft, their every tear a prayer,
God of the lonely, wrap them in your love,
Heart-breaking beauty, meet with them right there.

Stars ever-bright sing on! We all must come
Sooner or later to that dreaded shore,
Oh may the welcome light of our true home
Show us the path till we need fear no more.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Duchamp Exhibition

Here broken are the ancient unities,
Assumptions all undone.
Loki descends again:
Jokester, trickster,
Eternal disrupter,
Planting one foot in chaos –
The necessary counter
To the finished and correct.

My disturbance is your art,
My response, my resolution,
Seeking meaning below the madness
(Sometimes the well is dry).
All of us bear this quest,
Or die from lack of questing.
So, though you dazzle,
I will not deflect:
One thread of truth
Holds all the spinning world
And love is not enough,
Until it’s all.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter at the Waterfall

Down from above it comes,
The plashing, living stream
Pure as the rain’s sweet breath,
Wild as your secret dream.

Down it flows out of sight
Down to the hidden place
Knowing it came from light
Knowing it falls with grace.

Abundance watering
Those who know not its source
Still bringing life downstream:
Love gives without remorse.

So all my days you pour
Mercy abundantly:
May I give as you give,
In your provision free.

And, as you rose again
Out of death’s darkest night,
Through every doubt and fear
May I await your light.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

In Darkness

Are all the deepest things in darkness done?
In the black silence,
The hidden places,
The wombs of our becoming.
Or the seed beneath the soil?
Or the secret shadows
Where deeds of shame unfold:
The things we dare not see?

And the face of the sun was hidden
Lest we behold his pain
No mortal eyes could bear;
Lest we behold our shame
Before we knew
The sweet kiss of forgiveness.
And men cried out in fear.

Then, in the darkness,
Behind the mighty stone,
In the womb of our restoration,
Life returned:
Not with a tentative shoot,
Testing for frost.
Life unconstrained,
Sharper than galaxies,
Fiercer than our wildest joy,
Meeting us everywhere
The dark would pin us down.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Last Supper

He spoke the wine before the blood.
He spoke the death that was to be
He spoke it to twelve wondering men
And, in his mercy, spoke to me.

He knelt and washed their puzzled feet
He knelt beneath the olive tree
Embracing all the dreadful dark
My servant God laid down for me.

He took the yeastless bread and broke
Before the nails were driven through
And still his broken people come
For only he can make us new.

That cup of blessing which he blessed,
The cup which only he could drink
The cold, dark horror of our sin,
The depths of death where we must sink:

He knew, and in his knowing chose,
And drank it down, and took our place,
We taste our healing in his gift,
And raise our eyes to seek God’s face.

He gave the feast who is the feast,
Our exodus, our paschal lamb;
Our Moses and our great high priest,
God absolute, the great I Am.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Attempting poetry

To take one word
From the rubble of my thoughts
And give it wings to reach
Another’s heart.

To hear the music
Under the music
And play it back
In lucent syllables

To reach for the far thing
And find it
To struggle into joy
Because it hides
Between one breath
And the next.

To wrestle with holiness
In Jabbok-like defeat
And sing
With crippled tongue.

Learning to let go
In order
To hold on

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

He is the one who comes

He is the one who comes
Into our darkest place
Not with transcendent light
But with an aching grace.

He is the one who comes
Into our tearless pain
And, in that numb, stark place
Wakes us to life again.

He is the one who comes
When no Hosannas ring
With one pure chiming note
Teaching us how to sing.

He is the one who comes
Softer than a caress
Touching our gaping wounds
With his own wounds that bless.

He is the one who comes
Lifting up all we are
Bearing us all the way
Unto the morning star.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Why do birds matter?

(Inspired by a headline on a magazine cover that asked this question)

Why do birds matter? Why?
How could a world so be
Where birdsong never trilled
From each surrounding tree?

Where parrots never squawked
In colours like a jewel,
Nor eagles rode the sky
With talons sharp and cruel?

No mother ducks to teach
Their little fluffs to swim?
Nor swallows in their dance
Who dart and turn and skim?

No terraces bedecked
With peacocks’ wondrous tails,
No kookaburra glee
When our own laughter fails?

No question-mark-necked swans
To grace each lake or stream,
No flash of brilliant wings
To teach us how to dream?

No tender nests to show
Us safety when we cry,
No tossing from the nest
To teach us how to fly?

No albatross to claim
The wild waves as its home,
Secure with its own wings
However far it roam?

And how else could we learn
The deepest truth of all:
How much we’re loved by him
Who marks each sparrow’s fall?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

I shall not listen now

I shall not listen now
To the old song of my neediness,
That croaks along, slightly off-key.
There is so much better music:
The merriment of water,
The thousand whispers of the wind,
The beat of human hearts,
Syncopated laughter,
Susurrating leaves
The cold melody of moonlight.

But beneath
Even these
There sounds
A love song
So piercing
It breaks my heart
For all eternity:
That heartbreak that is gladder
Than the fiercest joy,
And holds all things entire.

Monday, March 18, 2019

A Long Way from "Kansas"

We’re a long way from "Kansas" right now,
And the fruit has long gone from the vine,
The water is bitter with dust
And there is no sweet, heady wine.

The loaf on the table is plain
But this is our own journey-bread;
As strong as the flesh that once died,
And then was raised up from the dead.

No carnival flaunting is here
No flags wave, no trumpets shall sound
We walk a strange path through the air
And find that we tread solid ground.

No fiction of fanfares, no feast,
The heart strangely miracle-blind;
And yet, as we hold to his hand,
All fullness, all solace we find.

We sing a new song day by day,
A song which the angels can’t learn
For theirs are the wings and the light
And ours are the salt tears that burn.

But we know the measureless grace
Which carries us right to the end:
We stumble, we falter, we fall,
Yet he is already amen.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Christchurch Shooting

Our brothers and sisters,
Our cousins and our friends,
We stand beside in the sorrow and the horror,
We sit beside the waters of Babylon,
And weep again
And weep again with you.

All history seeps with blood
From innocent Abel
To the latest ones,
Butchered in a place of peace,
And the shots ring out a challenge to our tears,
But the tears are greater,
Every tear a prayer.

We stand, we sit, we kneel,
We walk with you,
Through the darkness and the horror,
Carrying a light,
The only light we have
It is for you,
And the darkness shall never defeat it.

Hatred wears a thousand faces
Love wears one
Crowned with thorns for now, but finally,
The only victory.

Let us walk together

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mid March

Mid March
And the new-crisp apples
Sing in the shops
The summer heat still lingers,
But the reeds in the ponds are browning
And the dragonflies
Forget their summer languor.

Mid March
And the skies are blue,
So blue
You could lose yourself forever into blueness.
The Japanese maple
Is sending its leaves, forthwith,
Into early retirement.
The world breathes in
And out.

Mid March.
And the workaday world looks back to the holiday season
And feet submit to stiffer shoes again.
Mornings are darker now,
And some kookaburra
Laughs, far too early, at our human folly.
The Lenten season coils around our hearts
All we see is autumn’s bounty
And nights grown cool enough to sleep again.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

On Saying the Creed

I believe …
And believing,
I stand together with the company of saints
Knit together, woven by his grace,
Across centuries and continents.

I stand with the martyrs
Of every generation;
The ones who strode,
And the ones who fumbled.
I stand with the clear-eyed,
Theologians and philosophers,
Who gazed into the deep places
And saw more than their own reflection;
And with those who could only mumble hopefully,
Choosing to believe that the mystery was real.

I stand with those who argued deeply,
Trying to decipher how it works,
Sometimes forgetting this, their common ground;
And with those who would rather reach out dusty hands
For the work that must be done.
I stand with the loved and the unloved,
The feeble and the fainting,
The highly valued and the overlooked,
All borne to the same shore.

They all crowd together,
Every nation, every language,
Linked in a mighty shout
That neither death nor hell can silence,
The word that undoes man’s kingdoms:
I believe …

We understand
As our frail crafts spin on roaring seas of doubt,
Tossed by the world’s winds’ sneering,
Our masts bent to a question mark,
That a nail-scarred hand holds the tiller,
And he shall steer us home.

Yes, I believe!

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Ash Wednesday 2019

Down the feathers fall
Petals drift lazy with no wind to stir
And we hear again the silence under chatter.

Was it for this he came,
To the stringent places
Straightjacket of the heart
More sere and lonely than the curlew’s call?

Was it for this he came,
Down beyond our measure
Feeling the air grow thick,
And tasting death all the way?

Was it for this he came,
For stuttered hymns
From dry, bruised lips;
Why would he choose our pale, dead words
Above the angels’ alleluias?

Was it for this he came
To the straitened place and time
The wilderness of wanting,
He who had nothing to repent?

Was it for this he came,
Was it for me;
The passion and the agony
That these dry bones might live?

When love became a solid thing
The earth could not bear his weight.

Friday, March 01, 2019

The Preacher

I have been poured like water,
My words gush forth like wine
Till the heart is sere and bloodless,
And my tears are pickling brine.

I breathe air thin and daunting
A higher altitude
As I strain my understanding
And my vision is renewed.

This is my price-of-paying
Hid from the eyes of all,
Love’s thorns pressed on my forehead,
Till my pride tastes like gall.

Not with the easy answers
Not with the slick reply;
Down like a rock in the ocean,
Never to come up dry.

Straight past the shallow places
Down to the beating heart,
Where a seabed like Procrustes’
Reshapes my every part.

Then, with lips blue and stumbling,
How shall speak the way
To that place I have no name for,
Where love burns bright as day?

Yet I rejoice to be there
Assumptions all unmade
By his scarred hand held tightly:
Broken yet unafraid

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Joy of Randomness

Picture a pillow or picture a peacock,
Picture a rainbow in splendid array;
Picture, ah, picture, the smile on a strawberry,
Or the sweet moment when night turns to day.

Picture the willows bent down to the water,
Picture the sun dancing bright on the wave
Picture (oh fancy it!) bluebells and unicorns,
Or the dear comforts that make you feel brave.

Picture whatever, whoever, wherever
Picture with glee and a smile of surprise
All of the world for your heart’s exploration
Imagination and wide open eyes.

Picture a squirrel or picture a penguin
Picture a ship or a soft, rain-soaked day
Freedom to wonder and let the mind wander
Into sweet meadows where young moonbeams play.

So much, so much to enjoy and give thanks for
Wise hearts can hold a continuous feast
Gladly embracing the glory and beauty:
Seen and acknowledged, enjoyed and released.

Picture a heart that’s content in amazement
Taking each thing as a gift and delight.
Picture the joy that will come in the morning:
Tears wiped away and our faith turned to sight.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sometimes You Just Know

Sometimes you just know.
In the still small twilight,
In the whisper of the stars,
In the rippling of water
And the soft caress of rain,
You know.

Sometimes you just know.
In the touch of a child’s finger,
The confiding of their smile,
In the tears that wreath our gratitude
And the laughter of our freedom,
You know.

Sometimes you just know.
When the thunder shakes your mettle
And the rainbow lifts the sky,
When the wanting is too dreadful
And the tongue runs out of words,
You know.

Sometimes you just know.
In the silence past the violence,
In the courage to go on,
In the prayer that changes all things
And the hope that weaves the world,
You know.

Sometimes you just know.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

If the Faith is Anything

If the faith is anything
It must be everything
Without the centre
We are hollow as a sounding gong.

If the faith is anything
It must be more
Than the skim of sunlight on the water
Dulled by a passing cloud.
It must be more
Than rigmarole and ritual
And occasional appeasement.
It must be more.

If the faith is anything
It should transcend
Our careless little thinking
And entitled boredom.
It should transcend
Our moderated dreams
And the hopes this world can give.
It should transcend.

If the faith is anything
It must embrace
Height, depth, length, breadth
And every nuance
Of sweet and sour in the life we live.
It must embrace
Mystery and certainty,
Grief and joy-gone-dancing.
It must embrace.

If the faith is anything
It must be everything
Or it is nothing
Just a rumour on the wind.

And let our cry come unto you.

Friday, February 15, 2019

I am a Broken Pot

I am a broken pot.
You pour your water in.
And straightway it leaks out,
And yet it washes sin:
A broken vessel I,
A cymbal made of tin.

I am a scattered seed
That falls on troubled ground:
The strange dark winds of life
Have turned me all around.
Yet, since your grace rains down,
Some root, some foothold found.

I am a sheep confused.
I go my baa-ing way,
Deaf to the shepherd’s voice,
Unwittingly I stray.
Yet, in some unmarked field,
Yourself became my way.

I am the parable
Of every undone thing:
I have no voice of praise
Till you teach me to sing;
Yet, in your lightest word,
I find my everything.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

You Heard My Cry

You heard my cry and answered me
In the dry salvages
Where dust chokes all my utterance,
When I remember all my throbbing life
Is only dust,
To dust it shall return,
You answered me.

You heard my cry and answered me
In the lonely reaches,
In the dark of desolation,
Where the owl’s cry haunts
And the bat’s flit wears grotesqueness
In the crumbling ruins of my fear
You answered me.

You heard my cry and answered me
Under the shadow of doubt
And the voices calling questions
Till I wonder if I even have a name.
Swirled in the vortex of uncertainty,
Multiform in map-lessness
You answered me.

You heard my cry and answered me
Loving the unlovely
Always and everywhere
The only song I know,
Played in ten thousand melodies
To harmonise as one
You answered me
And gave to me yourself.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

This Dance

We will dance this dance together
Till our hearts beat to one time,
As we brush against each other
And our fingers intertwine;
Then the music calls us outward,
And we turn and twirl away,
Turning back towards each other
At the ending of the day.

This was never in our planning
All these steps we are compelled
Yet they come from deep within us
From our hidden selves upwelled;
There’s a song that won’t be silenced,
There’s a hush that must be heard,
There’s a power in the whisper
Of the heart-defining word.

So I bring to you this courage,
Torn and tattered though it be
All the grace that I can gather
From the ragged shreds of me.
They will weave and they will waver
For a wind is blowing through
Lending strength that feels like flying
As I stumble back to you.

For all love is nine-tenths courage
In the daring to let go
Of our fortressed self-protection,
The defences that we know:
To step out into the wildness
Of the music and the wind
And this dance the only compass
To the mercy we must find.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

For a Friend in Pain

Weave, mercy, weave your comfort round her frame
Soften the agony that burns like flame.

Let her be held in gentleness and peace
Until the torments of her body cease.

Unwind the ropes of pain that twist and snare
Until a gentle freedom meets her there.

Soften the harshness of mortality
Fill her with peace and gladness, whole and free.

Let her know rest, the gentle gift of grace,
Held in your arms through all that she must face.

Keep her within your mercy, safe, entire
This is my prayer for her, this my desire.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

On Reading "Educated"

They have bent their world to their words,
And fear, not love, is their binding;
They have harried the might-have-beens,
Self-righteously ever fault-finding
The shadows becoming their homes,
Their cause and their folly self-blinding.

I know not the God that they serve,
Heart-bitter, and hands toil-bleeding.
They see not his light or love
Only wrath and dark prophecy heeding;
In spiralling anger and dread
They seek what they think they are needing.

The earth is the Lord’s, oh yes!
The sun and the rain are his giving.
Their righteousness cannot attain
The peace of his boundless forgiving,
Caught in self-spun webs of deceit,
They have not begun really living.