Saturday, July 24, 2021

Paris to Helen (thinking about the Trojan war)


Say there were happy days

Till sorrow came to call.

As playthings of the gods,

How could we know at all?

Yet now our doom comes fast:

It will destroy us all.


Say there were happy days,

That all was not in vain,

Say there were happy days

Before devouring pain

Struck at the root of things

Again, again, again.


Say there were happy days!

Your beauty was divine.

Crazed as a man athirst

I had to make it mine.

But now I am as numb

As drunk on Lethe’s wine.


Say there were happy days.

Say you recall them well:

Sweetness to recollect

As we descend to hell.

Once, dear, we touched the stars,

Before we fell … and fell.


Say there were happy days!

I now go out to die.

Did you once love me well,

Or were our lives a lie?

Can I find any joy

In our last, strained goodbye?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Faithful Grieving


Let our tears be honest tears, there is no pretending,

Here, there, or anywhere.

Let the truth be spoken

Starkly, or whispered,

But it must be said.

There must be room for lamentation.


Let us be done with the piety of plastered smiles,

Of bravely quivering voices,

Prayers with subtext,

Agendas to rebuild our pedestals

With all the papier-mâché we can cobble,

From our scant treasuries.

Would we be those

Who have their reward already?

(And that’s all.)


Let us come

To the olive gardens where the broken kneel.

Let our fragments fall

Without curation;

Finally acknowledging

It doesn’t matter,

And it never did –

Everyone else could always see the mess.


There is no healing for sock puppets,

Or marionettes with painted grins,

And staring eyes that cannot shed a tear.

This is not the hour of trumpets.

We are not home yet.

Feet blister,

And the world becomes a burden

Too much for us to lift.

There is more grieving.

In a grain of sand

Than all our measured words.


Look in the cracked mirror,

Let its shards cut you!

See how you bleed,

You are not made of cardboard.

He breathed, he spoke, you were.

Live in his image:

A man acquaint with grief!

Walk in his footsteps:

Despised? Rejected? Yes!

And also raised

On the far side of tortured loss and shame:

There is no other path.


Tuesday, July 06, 2021



You have always been my other name for God

(In whom all beauty dwells),

Flashing across my terra-formed heart,

Singing of other worlds.

How you confront me!


I see you in a petal’s perfect curve,

You sing the song of running waters,

Dancing in every nuance of sunlight;

Cutting wide open

Every last defence,

Then gather me up with hands of tenderness.


My first teacher,

Preparing me for worship,

Capturing a child’s attention

With knife-sharp loveliness,

Whispering a story

That I could almost hear.

Shattering my heart.


You play in so many places:

Connection and healing,


The making and the breaking,

Humility set free,

The candle flames of truth that shine like stars,

Scattering our darkness.


You made me pilgrim:

From the muck and the trash

Towards treasure

Found in the Father’s heart,

Waiting forever

Where call and response are one.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Cross of Sticks


The winter night curls round me like a cloak,

The rain outside falls heavy, hard, and stark;

And I lift up this simple cross of sticks,

And finger the rough texture of its bark.


Its prickling on my skin encourages,

Because a cross should not be comfortable.

The least response should be a great dis-ease,

And my defences all made breachable.


This world – it overflows with suffering,

While I sit warm and dry and snug and fed,

With all my needs supplied so easily.

I have no fears about my daily bread.


From snug to smug is but a little stroke,

A line too easily crossed by such as I.

Oh may this cross stand as a warning fence,

Lest I should shrug it off without a sigh!


May I be taken back (again, again)

To that stark, dreadful place where God and man

Collided with such cataclysmic pain,

And see once more the truth of what I am.


And know that I can never make it right:

Exposed there as a useless, broken thing,

Yet one that God will never cast aside.

He holds me close through all my wandering.


He holds me close. And he lifts up my head,

Till all I see is love enveloping,

And reaching to embrace this whole mad world,

The only grace that holds up everything.


And thus their pain is mine, and mine is his.

This little cross must teach me how to pray:

No gilding here, no fancifying truth,

But only stark, pure mercy every day.