Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Prayer in a Time of Fire

For the grey-green forest,
Lyrical in beauty,
Nurturing life and joy –
Now gone.
We pray

For those who rise in courage
To battle monsters,
To bear the dragon’s breath,
Struggling, exhausted,
We pray.

For those who cower
On new-crowded beaches
Desolate with fear
And too much loss to count
We pray.

For history made palpable:
Country townscapes
Wearing charm and welcome
Utterly destroyed
We pray.

For those so cruelly bludgeoned
Grieving for the arms
That will never touch again
And the words now no more spoken
We pray.

For sweet summer air made bitter
Tainted by smoke,
Choking and unbreathable
Blotting out the sun
We pray.

Let us never be a people
Of cold hearts and crossed arms
Wearing indifference as a shield
Terminally self-seeking
We pray.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Elizabeth Speaks

The flesh is fading, but the love is strong
And wonder overwhelms my every breath;
For who am I to walk in miracles
When, humanly, my womb was only death?

I did not hear the wild angelic words:
What do I know of angels and their ways?
Yet he, my learned husband, is struck dumb
While my lips open wide to sing God’s praise.

I do not know if it is shame or pride
That bids me hide myself from careless eyes
The while my body swells with burgeoned life
And all my soul’s a-tremble with surprise.

There is a knowing deep, deep in the bone,
Where all my living comes down to this place:
This life in me that reason can’t explain,
This aged flesh a temple of his grace.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

My grandmother's oak

My grandmother’s oak (I think of it as hers)
Is growing old now, with some branches bare;
I watch it, fleeting, from the passing train,
And think back fifty years, when she was there.

All histories bear their own entanglements,
And I, still near a child, I did not know,
And know not yet what she was to herself,
Or how her years spelled out their ebb and flow.

Now, looking back, my guesses grow more sharp,
But, sharper still, the holes I cannot guess,
Yet she is still a memory of love,
A shade within my childhood’s wilderness.

Monday, December 09, 2019

No magic wands

(against the snake oil salesmen)

There are no magic wands,
No miracle cures,
No happy-stance comets
Blazing with pre-set glory
For those who learn and do the right techniques,
Or say the sorcerous words.
Or pay the fee
To some bright charlatan who laughs away
Long years of patient learning with the nudge
That they know all the secrets.

Sit, walk, stand
Under the truth;
Know that the world grinds on
With sludge, drudge, trudge,
With pain borne heavily
With shoulders bowed,
With harsh mortality,
And everyone
Must drink the cup until the world shall change.

And yet
We draw in mercy with each breath
We drink down kindness, wonder, beauty, joy
Here in the very valley of dry bones,
Singing the songs of worlds we’ve not yet trod
Where flowers bloom from every swardy sod
Dark powers shattered by the iron rod
Forged from the nails that thought they could kill God.

His peace, his peace
Sings over everything.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Mary's Questions

Oh angel! It is so easy for you
To tell me not to fear –
You who dwell in light unimaginable,
Forever praising God,
What do you know of fear?

My path is different;
Even in Spring’s upspringing
I feel the slow drag of flesh,
And the questions, like a thousand sword-points,
Bearing down upon me:
What will my mother say?
And Joseph, how will I explain
That I bear Another’s child?
Unless an angel comes to him,
How shall he believe?
And my friends (I can see it now):
Cruel smiles, pointing fingers,
Whispers I only just hear?
This is a small, small town,
I can get away with nothing.
Oh angel, have you any idea?

In this hour of second-guessing
Where has my courage gone?
And who am I to raise a child
Who is not like any other?

He will be the Son of God –
And my mind retreats
From the unearthly strangeness of it all …
But he will be God!
God himself
Will be a baby!
God himself
Will need me,
Will be vulnerable, alone,
Will need me.
God himself
Will taste of fear,
Will understand
This path I scarcely name.
God himself
Will be with me, will be so small, so small …

Let it be to me according to your word.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

On This Shore

Reaches to this shore:
This partial place
Where broken monuments to stone-dead hopes
Stand in the rubble,
Foolishly restored
By men with solemn ribbons on their chains.

We, who have glimpsed,
Or dreamt,
A better light,
Flailing our way through scrambled pilgrimage,
With stone-grazed hands and shins,
Stubbed toes,
And count our wounds as worthy;
Give us strength
To travel further, harder,
To do more,
And to be unafraid of sitting still
Under the willows, where the old lyres hang,
Mourning our exile,
Mourning our own kind,
Waiting until the morning of Love’s lovely dawn,
Claiming the promised land here in the dark.

May all our tears be rain.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Learning Lament

We cannot speak the language of faith,
From the deepest place, the heart and the root of our being,
Till we learn the language of lament,
The language of our broken, needy world.

Yes, the gift is freely given,
But the road
Is still the path of pilgrimage
The Via Dolorosa,
Pursuing our Lord
And walking after him –
He who already holds us fast.

This is a world of stones –
Stone altars, stoning, stony wilderness,
The stone-hard hearts of men
Who only give
Hard stones instead of bread.

Down there, down there,
We must take the light,
The light that we have seen,
The Light who is our Love.
There in the dark
Take hold afresh
Of him,
Our only anchor place.
Reaching out
To grasp a flailing wrist,
Skeletal, dreadful,
A hand outreaching from the lowest place,
To where we stand on tears,
In tears proclaiming,
God is already here.

How can they know
Unless we walk the darkness by their side?

Monday, November 11, 2019

I have not yet learned to be old ...

I have not yet learned to be old:
My world
Glistens with sky-eyed wonder.
My heart
Still dances under the stars
Tasting moonlight;
While my feet,
Toe tangled in grass,
Wiggle to their own rhythm.

Laugh with me,
Bright leaves of spring,
Chortle the air with birdsong!
Search each storm
For rainbows!
Rest within the shade’s embrace,
Smiling at dandelions.

What is this thing called age?
Dull paint upon the body’s chariot?
An extra blanket in the howling wind?
A sorrow for the things that are no more?
A little pain?
A softness in the heart?

These shall not make me old,
Shall not defeat
My butterfly-skipping hopes,
The prayers that bind,
Fiercer than fierce,
To glories just beyond
My fingers’ reach.
I shall stretch out my sails
With hands that time has cobbled into knots,
To catch the dawn-wind of my Father’s love,
And steer to brave horizons,
Learn new songs,
And, open-handed, face both day and night.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

We were so young

We were so young and brave,
Fire-eyed and gorgeous,
Gobbling down life,
Drinking down rain and music.
We were so young.

We were so young and brave,
Never then knowing
That sorrow-weight slows you,
Entropy tries to claim you.
We were so young.

We were so young and brave,
So little dreaming
How deep were the gorges jumped;
Why others faltered.
We were so young.

We were so young and brave,
Laughing at shadows,
Seeing no substance,
Light, there was light before us.
We were so young.

We were so young and brave,
Loving with freedom,
Choosing forever-commitment,
Handfast and steadfast.
We were so young.

We were so young and brave,
In this sober country
We harbour no regrets,
For we chose with courage:
We were so young.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Know Your Limits

Know your limits, know your place
Know the whole world floods with grace;
Know that you have been set free
To walk in love’s entirety.

Know that you are weak and small,
Know the mighty Lord of all
Lifts you up to heights unguessed
His holiness to manifest.

Know your voice is small and weak,
Know that he commands you speak
Gloried angels bend to hear
Mercy lift you out of fear.

Know your limits, child of man
Called forth by the great I Am,
Meek with wonder, take your place
In the annals of his grace.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Carss Park, September

Early Spring:
On sun-blessed waters
Knife-sharp gulls
Float in the moment’s tranquillity;
We sit
In lengthening shadows
Watching an infinite sky
Whisper hallelujah.

I will arise and go
To my Father’s many-mansioned house,
Under his roof-beams,
My corner’s rest
The lapping waters
And the glory of the light.

Monday, September 02, 2019

On Government Policies

Cold and metallic, bitter on the tongue
Blind cruelty stalks the land.
Genial, smiling, blokey
And heartless as a bank vault:
Dollar-signs, false fears, and the tramping of the boots –
Jackboots marching, trampling tender shoots
Ripping kindness by the roots.

It is not cheap sentiment
To stand against the zeitgeist
To refrain from sloganeering
Ersatz comfort easy-bought.
Compassion costs the heart
Pierced through and nailed apart
With ancient nails.

Let us renounce all cruelty
Let us not dehumanise
In the kingdom of my Father
There is no us-and-them,
In the kingdom of my Father
We clutch Christ by the hem.
Let the little children come

Thursday, August 22, 2019

My Strength is Renewed

My bones are weary with great weariness
Of living, yet my heart sings like a bird
(The one who had escaped the fowler’s net),
I find renewal in your every word.

You draw me, draw me, from the depths of dark
Into that light which pierces like a sword
Unmake, remake me, shatter and re-form;
You are my life, therefore I call you Lord.

You were undone to do me up again,
Broken for me to reconstruct my soul
Out of the stuff of your transforming grace
And in this great defeat I am made whole.

Therefore I love and laugh and lift and live
In you who are my treasure and my king
And though death stalks my every mortal breath
Your life in me will give me everything.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The hermitage

I carry my own hermitage within:
A place apart, the world can wait outside
And nothing know, nor ever penetrate
The recess of the self where I abide.

My cell is furnished with such pretty things:
The stars of night, the sunlight on the sea,
And every lovely flower’s tenderness,
And music of heart-stopping poetry.

Here my beloveds, in the arms of prayer,
Rest tranquil, and my terrors are laid by
With tears of thankfulness. I can let go
Of all the busyness which I decry.

Here trembling hope has learned to reach in trust
And smile again; here peace with folded wings
Waits to embrace, to still my tottering doubts,
And whisper melodies till my heart sings.

And here is rest until my rest shall come;
Here, at the heart of all, my altar stands,
For underneath all things is utter love,
And I am held forever in his hands.

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