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‘Sleep is a fickle mistress’

23 October 2018
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Sleep is a fickle mistress, that loves to tease me:
She rarely will deny me altogether,
But flits and wavers, beckoning and retreating,
Leading me on and leading me astray;
Sullenly unresponsive tonight to what
Had lured her to my troubled bed the last.
Then, when I needs must be about my business –
Say after lunch, or when I’ve just switched off
The alarm that drags me daily to the world –
She wraps herself around me, fiercely loving,
And will not let her jealous, proud, seductive,
Importunate affection be denied.

Traffic jam

23 October 2018
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In blazing rows, red light, red light, red light,
They turn the never-darkened urban night
Into a blazing hell of ennui.
For none shall pass and none shall bypass me
And so the brakes and stops all brake this car
And break each traveller, infinitely far,
From destination – say release – in time,
However nearly seen in web map line.

Now surely very great are all our sins
If this for them is fitting recompense.
But in our dark yet blazing prison, we
Are all each others’ suffering gaolers, free
Alone to shuffle pain among ourselves.
Now Sartre must have coined his sight of hell
Upon an evening’s London driving: true
That here, hell is all people besides you.

Holy Week – XII: Daybreak and Endnote

27 December 2015

[these sections complete, in some sense, the Holy Week sequence that has been in one incomplete state or another for a few years now. As a result, I attach what might be called charitably a finished typescript, or hopefully a first complete draft … Here are the new sections:]

XII: Daybreak

The grass glistens in the garden – the dew
Has not dried this day, barely dawn, when they come,
The women, waking and walking early.
They speak softly in the shadowy dimness
And shortly, only saying what is strictly necessary:
‘Have we got what we need?’ ‘Good. Let’s go.’
They slip out of the still half-sleeping city
Unnoticed – they had need to be, a known insurgent’s
Grave was their goal in this glimmering dawn.
Though their hopes are wholly humbled now,
Their thoughts thicken with throngedness of the last few days
As their love was loyal in the last disappointment.
Even in death he is dearer to them than the disciples named so,
Tracing the last love-duty that belongs to them,
In faith that they will find someone of force enough
To shift the stone that will separate them from devotion.

Later, the women sit with the disciples,
Bewildered, fussed over, questioned, not believed.
At last they are allowed to tell their story.

We went to the tomb at first light, like we’d planned,
To finish off the burial of – his body …
But as we went, we weren’t sure what we’d do
To get inside the tomb – we couldn’t shift
That stone, you know, it’s far too big and heavy.
But on we went; I suppose we hoped to find
A gardener, or maybe Joseph, since
The garden’s his, you know, he might be there.
But when we got inside the garden, round
To where the tomb-mouth faces on a path,
The stone had been rolled back – clear of the cave.
We knew that didn’t seem right; but we looked in,
And sure enough, the body was gone. And where?
You may well ask; I haven’t got a clue.
Then there were two young men in bright white clothes:
Whiter than anyone could wash them to,
And shining so it hurt our eyes to look …
Of course we were afraid; I’m shaking now!
We bowed down; I would’ve liked to run away.
But one of them said: ‘Do not be afraid.
Why are you looking for the living here?
Jesus of Nazareth is not here among
The dead – he’s risen, like he said he would.
Now go and tell his disciples that he’s risen;
And let them go to Galilee; for there
As he said to them, he will meet with them.’
Us two set off at once, and came back here
To tell you it; but Mary Magdalene
Remained behind, still crying in the garden
For the body of the Lord was taken away.
What does it mean? We do not understand.

Uproar ensues. ‘This is a plot! A ruse
Set by the Pharisees – ‘ ‘The Sadducees!’
‘Herodians!’ ‘The Romans!’ ‘To entrap us,
To round us up and wipe us out at last!’
‘Will we believe these idle women’s takes?’
‘You know their testimony will not stand
In court of law, since they are only women?’
But John and Peter slip away to look.
When they return, they find the followers
Still in dispute, uncertain; then John speaks.

I knew – perhaps I knew it more than most –
That Jesus was a mystery to us all
As long as we had known him. His own mother,
Who’s here among us, says the very same.
Time after time we found after the event
That we’d misunderstood, and were in awe.
I did not disbelieve as yet there might
Be something of him we had not yet learned.
So I did not reject the women’s tale
Entirely at first hearing; rather went
To see myself what might be at the tomb.
The stone, indeed, is rolled away; by whom
I cannot understand. I looked inside
And saw the burial clothes still lying there.
Then up came Simon, following on my path;
He went inside the tomb, and so I followed.
This was no mere grave-robbery, my brothers:
No thief folds up the wrappings of the body,
Places the covering of the head apart,
All neatly piled, before he makes his getaway.
I do not understand; but still I think
This matter should be further pondered on.

It was much later that eventful Sunday
That Mary Magdalene could tell her tale
Of early morning at the garden tomb.

The other two had gone back to the city.
Peter and John had come and gone again.
I stayed around the tomb – I couldn’t move.
I loved Jesus so much – those few short days
Had swept me every which way, now it seemed
Hi body going pushed me off the edge
And I just couldn’t function. I barely heard
The two men speaking to us; barely knew
The women left, or saw the disciples come.
My world had shrunk to me, my tears and the loss
Of anything to cling to of my Teacher.

Then through my grief I heard a quiet soft voice speak
But did not think I knew the man; someone that said
‘Now lady, why do you cry? what are you here to seek?’
I turned, but still, it might have that I had shed
Too many tears to see, or any other freak
Of God knows what; but I did not at all inside my head
Know who he was, but thought he must work there; so meek
As I could pull myself together, asked and said
‘If you, sir, took him away, then tell me where he lies,
And I will move him to a place out of your way
He only said then ‘Mary’. I heard my voice say
‘My Teacher!’ – as I still was reaching the surprise
That it was Him, without a doubt, not knowing
In any way what sign had so fast done the showing.

And then he spoke to me, and he was still as kind
As I remember, yet as noble as a king,
As if whatever happened made me hear his mind
So great as I had ever dreamed, above all things.
‘Now Mary, do not cling to me, for you must find
I have to yet go up unto my Father-King.
But go to those who are my brothers; pass on all
That you have seen and heard; and tell them above all:
‘I am ascending now unto my God and yours,
Indeed unto my Father who is also yours.’


No poet should attempt to add a gloss
On such a mystery; there is no loss
In one less writer trying to understand
This story; I will let this version stand
So short, and not extend the chapters, lands
And continents of sequels at my hands;
Here is the narrative that I have found;
Build what you may upon its earthy ground.

Nunc Dimittis Redux

31 July 2015

Now Lord let thy servant depart for peace
From starving of thy Word.
For mine eyes have beheld no salvation
Whatever may be seen by the faces of people
Whether Gentiles or old or new Israel.
The thoughts of my own heart, now revealed,
Speak against the signs told of ancient times,
Piercing a sword through my own soul also.


30 July 2015

An unenchanted world reserves no shocks.
It is as science says and senses see,
Cause and effect, all people, trees and rocks,
Are what they seem to physics and psychology.
Such is the world of those who never believed
In more occult than markets and evolution.
It may be lonely, but is not bereaved;
If dull, at least unpained by revolution.

The disenchanted world has newly changed.
The lack of unseen force is painful, strange,
Each time a mental habit looks to find
A once-familiar peace, like one gone blind
Who’s shocked upon awaking to not see.
A sense of presence was not ever free,
To have for asking; but as faith despairs,
Absence is active, chief of recurrent cares.

I wish to God who I no longer hear
The disenchantment of my world would fade
And I live unenchantedly and unsurprised.

In which Eliot inverted may be Stipe

30 July 2015

Because I hope to turn again some day
Because I hope to turn again
I will not close the door that faces back
Although to hold it open is a strain
And calls for strength I sometimes lack

Although I am not sure that I will hear
That voice again: although I am not sure
That I recall its sound now any more,
If I decide I will not listen, here
Is where I choose to say there will
Be no more sound. It hurts to fill
My ears with static; but that is the door
I must keep open, be however chill
The wind that’s all that’s coming in;

For how else, if he comes back, may I let God in?

Thought impediments

18 May 2015
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Old Mel, the unlikely local community hero
Who, out of little more than unused land
And tireless handful-handed toil, built up
Community within a ghastly suburb
Where all that could had well since gone away:
People, and business, shops, money, heart –
He (not being fond of public speaking) said
When asked to speak that he thought with a stutter.

I am no Mel, nor ever like to be;
I wonder rather if I think with a limp.
My mind will sidle into interaction,
Ungainly, halting, overcompensated,
Anticipating trouble (and so it causing)
Before it is encountered; far too awkward
To smoothly, lightly flow, either stuck fast
In isolating stillness, or in action
With clumsy, unengaging, over-eager
And over-forceful gait into the party.
Yes, limp and lurch is how I think, I think.

But Mel had learned to wear his stutter better
By far than I have grown to bear my limp.

‘And it was night. For it is always night’

29 March 2015

And it was night. For it is always night:
If not on this side, currently in day,
Then somewhere literally half the world away.
And in twelve hours we change places, dark and light,
And cycle on, from black, through grey, to white,
Lighter than darker always, without stay.
And so on the same hour of that same day
That Judas went out, heart all turned to night,
Some other made their greatest leap from dark
To spiritual light; and shine however it might
The glory of Palm Sunday, I feel the mark
Of night’s world-shadow have its day again,
And wait for a dawn to come I know not when.

Recovery, gradual

27 February 2015

The all-black canvas starts to show some light.
The world I see has moved from deepest night
To variation, range, variety
Of good and bad, felt outside and in me.
But now my life seems more than just absurd
– For it is my vision has changed and not the world -Now living is not clearly an active ill,
This very mixedness challenges my will
To find a judgment, view, a sense I lack
Of being’s character, nature, goodness, track.
Shadows are harder to read than solid black.

Lent interrupts again

21 February 2015

This Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, it might
Have been I got near the mouth of my mind-cave
Enough to see, from sun outside, some light
Of hope this side an all-benumbing grave.
I start to lift my head – long pressed face down
By the heavy fog-tide some call a mere black hound –
From staring close-up in dark, sodden ground;
And now I find I should turn that lift around.
When outside seems, not wilderness, but air
And light, and slow-returning health and truth,
Now calls a duty to go search, not there
But in the dark, close, lonely cave, the proof
Of who and what and where I am – of me
This moment and some way eternally.

Just once or twice, as a child in church, I cried,
And had no answer to ‘Martin! Why so sad?’.
The springs of tears in me are almost dried,
But spaced by years my thick-skinned soul has had
That same internal sadness, without source
But always in faith-space; it comes again
So miserable as to have paralyzing force
And reovershadow all I might see when
Commanded to imitate the hermit’s cell –
By all I feel, the prisoner’s as well.