Poems

VIDEO CREDIT: BEAN BAKER

AT THE FOOT OF THE TREE

To sit here beneath this tree,
to reach out and touch its roughness,
is to think how wood has served
­– and saved – down through the ages.

It is to remember the tree that stood in Eden,
the ‘obedience test’ that mankind failed
in a place of plenty and perfection,
spurning provision of the very best
to grasp for the single fruit forbidden,
to know good … but choose evil.

It is to remember the rescue plan
for a faith-filled man and all his kin
who, long before the rains began,
built a boat of gopher wood,
cut and planed for a perfect fit,
for Noah to save his family in.

It is to recall a tree tossed into an oasis
where the wood turned the bitter water
of Marah sweet enough to drink.
It is to think of another oasis – Elim
with twelve springs and seventy palm trees,
a place to rest, beside still waters.

It is to remember the acacia,
specified for ark and tabernacle;
the mighty cedar and cypress
needed to build the temple.

It is to recite the very first psalm
that calls us to be like trees,
well-planted by a stream,
with leaves for healing
for oaks of righteousness
are a planting of The Lord.

It is to shrink from the fate of fig tree
and vine that do not bear fruit,
but to stay well grafted-in,
to accept the need for pruning.

It is to remember a wooden trough
for animal feed, the humble manger –
the perfect place in which to lay
the new-born Saviour of the World.

It is to recall a carpenter’s workshop
in Nazareth where a master craftsman
and apprentice cut and shaped the wood
to make the things the people needed.

It is to think of the branches of palm trees
cut down to wave a welcome
for The Saviour of the World,
riding a humble donkey
on His triumphant entry
to a place of certain death.

To sit here at the foot of the tree
is to think of His sinless shoulder
bearing the weight of the heavy trunk
on which he would soon suffer and die –
the upright and cross beam
that formed the Romans’ chosen
instrument of execution –
the ‘wondrous cross
on which the prince of glory died’.

It is to think again of the blood
that flowed, down the grain,
to sink in the ground;
to try to imagine the grief
of Mary – and Mary –
at the foot of that tree;
to picture the soldiers
who gambled there for His garment;

to recite again His words
of anguish, abandonment,
yes and forgiveness … and fulfilment;
to remember the thief
on the neighbouring cross,
assured of paradise;

to receive that same promise
bought for us, by the shedding
of Christ’s pure blood, the sacrifice
of the Master Craftsman of the Universe,
who reaches down to us – still,
as we come to the cross, and thank Him
for His great rescue plan,
foretold through history
in the shape and substance of wood.

To sit at the foot of this tree
is to give all thanks and all praise
to Jesus, who defied a rough-hewn cross,
to rise again when the mighty stone
was rolled away from a short-lived grave.

And it is to worship
the Saviour of the the World
who will greet us
at our own triumphant entry
into the city with streets of gold,
where the Tree of Life awaits us
with leaves of healing and life everlasting.                                      

Thank you, Jesus.

At the Foot of the Tree was written for Good Friday 2021, for Elim Church, Cheltenham


 Video credit: Bean Baker
 
 WELL 
 Inspired by John's Gospel, Chapter 4, Verses 4–26 
 
 I met Him at the well 
 where I listened to him tell
 of all the times I slipped and fell.  
  
 He showed me what sort of race I’d run,
 everything I’d said and done 
 that ran counter to His plan ...
  
 But at Sychar’s well, 
 I felt my failures end,
 the Son of God became this sinner’s friend
 shining with a perfect light
 so I might more clearly see 
 what was wrong, what was right.
  
 Come with me now 
 listen to him tell
 of everything we’ve done
 the course our lives have run.
  
 And once he’s met us, we will run
 leave our burdens at the well,
 lighter, full of His light, keen to tell
 of everything He’s said and done.
  
 As we go about our life
 we’ll get grief, encounter strife 
 but as we keep a short account
 come before him and repent 
 of every wrong word we have said
 and every deed we’ve tried to hide
 each lie we’ve listened to - or told,
 all the wrong thoughts we have held,
 he shines his light on each untruth
 offers life where there was death,
 revives with fresh and living water 
 each beloved son, well-loved  daughter.
  
 As we meet daily, at the well
 he will tell us what to do, 
 so we can help fulfil His plan.
 He’ll lift us up if we slip or fall.
 He will be The One to perfect our race ... 
 so we will win,
 we will win. 
 ___________________________________________

 
 BEACH BREAKFAST +
 Inspired by Chapter 21, St John's Gospel 

 It's been a long night, a difficult week. 
 We meet on the sand where you've set up an impromptu barbecue 
 and, of course, it's fish you're grilling, 
 freshly caught and gutted 
 by the guys hovering around the boat, 
 looking over at us, no doubt wondering 
 about the conversation that is just beginning. 
 
 I blurt out how sorry I am. I was unfaithful. 
 I still love you. But you don't seem to accept my apology, 
 my profession of love. 
 I have to repeat it, over and over. 
 
 You are more concerned about food, 
 intent on the prospect of sharing it around, 
 even though in my eyes, right here, right now, 
 there are just the two of us. 

 Then I realize that is my perspective. 
 I've squeezed you into my narrow field of view, 
 where you rightly have the proportions of a giant, 
 but you're not mine alone, 
 you're theirs over by the boat, 
 you're everybody's.

(From the book: 'Interned at the Food Factory)
______________________________________________

 
 MOUNTAIN CLIMBING FOR THE MORE ADVANCED 
 Responding to the call: "Follow Me"

 Masterful. That is the only word
 to describe your leadership
 and yes, I had heard and feared
 your reputation … but it’s all right.
 You couldn’t aspire to such ascents
 or inspire me to reach such levels
 without acquiring wide experience.
 So as you take me on your travels
 to unfamiliar places, on expeditions,
 I go as a pupil, you as the master,
 and as I come, I trust my intuition
 to submit to you as a kind of sherpa.
 See, whichever peak we aim for now
 another’s always coming into view. 

(from the book 'Dualities')
___________________________


 FIREWORDS 
 Inspired by Psalm 127

 We struck vestas to light the fire. 
 It went out repeatedly 
 until ignition seemed to come from somewhere 
 other than our own hands 
 and then the firewords caught. 
 
 Now we must watch over them, 
 attend to the flame
 or the firewords will falter, 
 our house will stay cold 
 and red-letter days cool to black. 
 
 So we rise early each morning to lay the hearth, 
 make a bed for the firewords, 
 their crimson font. 
 
 And we stay up late at night 
 to settle the embers before sleep,
 bedded down between soft covers. 
 
 We question the need 
 to take so much care, suspect 
 it could all be less of a chore, 
 but the effort is necessary, 
 for firewords are also bright children, 
 hot with promise and rare reward. 
 
 Birthed in years of vigour 
 into our fumbling hands, 
 the firewords grow, become armour, 
 protective in old age. 
 
 Forged in the labour of fire, 
 the fire of labour, 
 they flare up in the ardour 
 of attentive parents, 
 come to rest in a child’s innocence. 

 (From the book 'Dualities')
___________________________


 AFTER THE CEREMONY – A SONNET
'The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"'

 Still in white, stilettos jettisoned in the sand,
 she skips along the beach with her bouquet
 in hand, and her man still in his wedding suit. 
 Newly matched, they strike out along the edge
 of the ocean. It glints, ignites the whole coast
 on this incandescent June day. Out of shot, 
 higher up the strand, family and friends stand 
 around, glasses charged and fizzing, sparking 
 off conversation as the bride blazes as bright 
 as a comet might across a velvet midnight sky.
 Waves kiss the shore, swish mimicking silk
 as her skirts sweep across shell and silicate. 
 A seabird calls from afar; the pair hurry on,
 oblivious to all around them, future bound.  

(From the book 'Dualities')

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

BOND

You're going to have to explain.
I cannot understand
why you press this money into my hand
then close my fingers over it.
 
I do not know if it is mine to keep,
to take out later, look at, turn over,
remember.
 
I know I cannot simply toss
it into purse or pocket
with common coin.
 
I cannot tell if it is payment, reward, 
deposit, float, capital, gift,
or all of these;
whether to donate it to a good cause
lock it in a vault,
buy seed, grow crops, harvest, 
sell and buy more.
 
It is gold, I see that -
a rare thing, from a treasury.
It's slump-proof.
 
Night and morning, when my eyes are closed,
you place it into my palm again,
apply gentle pressure,
curl my fingers to cover it.
 
I fear I must use it soon
or you'll take it back,
give it to someone who understands.
 
But the greater fear is that I use it,
you give me more,
expect more in return. 



Bond was published in 'The Poet's Quest For God: 21st Century Poems of Faith, Doubt and Wonder; 2016)

–––––––––––––––––––––––


I love you unconditionally   


when you look in the mirror 
and like what you see
or don’t like what you see 
when your latest experiment 
has gone a little too far
when your eyebrows are too bushy
or too thin or too straggly 
or off the scale in their pinkness 
or yellowness and other people 
stare at you and you don’t want that 
or you do want it but can’t handle 
the attention because your BPD 
is yanking your moods
from extreme high to extreme low 
with ever-increasing rapidity 
or your NPD is damaging 
everyone around you 
and you’re starting to suspect
there might be a trail of victims in your wake 
because your eyes have been closed 
to everything but your own inner turmoil
or you’re just being your INFJ self 
or have been over-busy being creative 
or worse a poet dragged 
through the rejection mill
once too often so you are blind 
to your successes or dismissive 
of everything you have achieved
and mostly because you haven’t seen
how incredibly beautiful you are 
and how equally beautiful I am
always here holding you 
and able to hear 
your unvoiced traumas 
and unfulfilled dreams
if you would only whisper them 
to me in a prayer
and allow me to soothe you 
with calming counsel
or to lullaby you 
like your mother never could
or if you would
let go and go limp 
in my arms 
so that I might hold you up 
and even lift you up in triumph
and convince you 
to believe
that you are lovable
and unconditionally loved.



First published on Visual Verse, June 2021



PRECOCIOUS BLOOMS, 2020

December’s not yet over in this discordant year.
New strains are breaking out, even as we cower 
in our hovels. 
                           
                         But today, on Christmas Eve,
We brave outdoors and spot a brighter wave–
yellow petals shivering by a wall 
                                                    
                                   and soon I’m full
of cheer on this post-solstice day.
An inner voice has arrested me to say

‘You’ve huddled away too long.
The season’s changing. You don’t belong
to a spirit of fear
               
                                but a whole new way
of seeing, with better lens and retrained eye, 
to notice hope on a narrow path, 
           
                                             invite
the life you’re seeing here to light
your steps from this hour on,
                                                
                                  or else, too late,
find out that you’re infected too
                                                  
                                       with the hate
that is today stirring the world, luring away
those blind to evil
                                                         
                                   or those who stay
estranged from truth, ignoring the call
                                      
                           to lift eyes to the hills
or bend the knee at the sound of bells
                                                         
                                          and marvel 
at the arrival of early daffodils.’

 
______________________________

IN THE UPPER ROOM
A poem for Pentecost
 
There is this fluttering, like palpitations,
or quickening, or perhaps butterflies
except not in the stomach, not low down.
This is up, aloft … a-hover now,
like a dove above a river
except that we are not outside.
This which we have waded into
has a strong current which is also electric.
There is a fragrance on the air,
and a wave-of-roaring sometimes,
a light tongue-lap other times,
or a flame a-flicker, a-dance overhead.
This is a presence that encompasses,
circumscribes like arcs around a radial dot,
except not one of us is just a dot.
Here, we are radiant motes
in the light from a scintillating source,
a focus for espousing photons – a touch
sometimes airy, featherlike, particulate
sometimes bright, irradiating, burning,
other times pulsing and as comforting
as a mother-hen, warm wings brooding.
This presence protects but is not safe.
This is like a breeze in the face sometimes,
other times, forceful – a gushing wind
to knock you backwards into a catcher’s arms
or to knee-buckle as if by your own free will,
whatever your will is anymore.
And sometimes there will be laughter
and sometimes groaning and sobbing,
or those silent tears that heal.
For This is That which was without,
and is now He who is within–
who is and was and will be …
up there, in here, now this side, now that
and, yes, even down
where we’d rather cover over.
He who blots out all trouble
calms all fear and flesh-nonsense,
retunes arrhythmia at the core,
clutches at lungs and announces
This is Pneuma
before breathing fresh life inside,
blowing the top of your head right off
for an instant neuroplasty
to rewire pathways, remap networks,
reignite dulled synapses,
wipe corrupt memories, install new software,
rewrite histories, recast futures.
 
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

TUNING IN

Driving in tongues changes etiquette.
Less cutting in, more giving way
less testing how long angels remain
on the bonnet, more observing speed limit,
less turning on radio or MP3 player
more tuning in to the interpretation
of messages received and spoken out, 
more invitations – to admire a magnolia 
or seagulls imposing natural on industrial
or a splendid specimen of border collie
walking his beloved human 
or a mackerel sky, or a power station
and its pylons, as manmade as they are, 
for enabling so much endeavour,
and all those cellphone masts
for allowing me to share with you
at the end of my journey
the pleasure of driving in tongues.

_________________
 

ON THE UP
(Inspired by Psalm 126, a Song of Ascent)
 
When our flowers changed colour,  
turning from heliotrope to yellow overnight, 
we laughed, even sang, when we saw them. 
Everyone came to look, to compliment us. 
'Life must be going well for you,” they said.
  
And it's true; everything’s turning peachy, 
well on its way to becoming marigoldy. 
Quatrefoils spring up around our feet 
and we're looking out for something 
like the cloth of gold that never fades.
  
Once we were like love lies bleeding, 
then philadelphus, now we're destined 
to resemble helianthus, and we're ecstatic. 
We started to flag but kept growing, 
never stopped dehiscing our tiny seeds
  
and will win in the end, dancing, singing, 
gathering harvests of giant sunflowers, 
holding them high, carrying them home. 

___________________________

 
MIGHTIER
  
No line of mine has ever stopped a tank,
as per the wisdom of Seamus. 
  
No stanza of mine will cause
a drone pilot to pause
on his button.
  
No public poetry reading
I have participated in
has fomented a groundswell, 
thrown up barricades,
spurred marches, 
the hasty production of samizdat tracts,
or even the scrawl of a home-made poster.
  
As the shrewd Mr Auden observed,
I doubt whether a poem
will ever make anything happen. 
And yet there remains hope
in the quiet line in the sand. 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

LINING UP

I made this frame to hold your word, 
took pains to choose the right wood, 
sawed, planed, sanded, cut joints square 
and true, treated the surfaces, 
preserved and burnished them 
till they shone, glowed, 
cut glass to fit, 
made a backing board, slotted it in, 
chose gold hooks and a chain 
and took your word and centred it 
in the frame, hung your word on my wall 
and spoke your word, 
lined my own words up with yours 
till they resonated, vibrated, 
started making waves, 
and many words tumbled forth 
in tune and temper with your word 
in the frame, multitudes of words, 
as many as the stars in the sky, 
innumerable as the sand on the seashore. 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

THE PRODIGAL AND THE ALLURE OF FAME – A SESTINA
  
Seeking signs with a sceptic’s ear, defective sight,
the boy was bound to start to doubt the sound
of his father’s voice - each still small whisper,
each feathery sigh. Soon fantasy began to hem
him in – fable, superstition, myth, all catching
his fancy, undermining his steadiness of foot,
  
so he began to miss, first by an inch, then foot,
then mile, the ancient waystones, the very sight
of which he mocked. Out in the world, catching
all its rickety ills ‘till nothing around was sound,
he failed to feel himself  unravel, first at hem
then cuff, then neck, ‘till he became a whisper
  
of his destined self. Now he cannot whisper.
He bellows out each poorly measured foot,
and line and stanza of his art, so quick to hem 
his audience in with his own squinting sight
and hooked cacophonies – the unholy sound
of the cynic. His burrs cleave, snag, catching
  
his audience who, in turn, can’t help catching
his malaise. And now with bullhorn, not whisper,
he rants at festivals and slams his latest sound
out at the gullible, hoodwinking his flock to foot
the bill as he headlines, hooks his fans. The sight
of groupies pleases his ego. They simper, hem
  
him in at gigs, in bars, and grab the very hem
of his denim, gush praise at his work, catching
his ear with their insights or eye with the sight
of a heaving cleavage, each breathy whisper
a hint, an offering of something in return; a foot
in a revolving door, screeching with the sound
  
of manipulation and control, the very sound
of Jezebel herself. And now it is at her hem
that he falls, and soon it will be at her foot
that he prostrates himself, lapping, catching
bitter breadcrumbs, her erstwhile whisper
a cackle he can’t now hear. He’s a sad sight,
  
only ever grasping for the vaguest sight,
of a sandalled foot, not heeding the sound
of the wearer’s whisper, unhealed by the hem.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

LETTING IT LIE
Inspired by John's Gospel 7:53–8:11

We are here to stone the woman
caught in the act,
and I have my pile of rocks ready, 
the first stone grasped in my fist 
to hurl at the unveiled harlot 
but there's something about the man 
over there, bent over, scratching 
with his stick in the dirt, 
that reminds me of the time I ...
 
... and the next thing I know, 
I am walking away. 

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
SOMETHING FOR CHRISTMAS
  
“Write something for Christmas," 
was what he said.
And, ever since, I’ve scratched my head
To find some words, a phrase or two,
To strike a note that’s fresh and new.
You see, it’s all been said before–
The innkeeper, the stable door,
The ox and ass, the manger bed, 
Kings and shepherds and haloed head,  
Joseph with the Virgin Mary
Angels praising, Herod wary.
Lot of carols tell the tale
Better than I, and so I fail
To find some new and well-turned phrase
That paints that scene from Bible days.
But let’s zoom in much closer now
To this delivery. Let us bow
 
To see those tiny fingers, toes.
Millennia hence they will pose
A question we'll all ask sometime
“OK, so just who was that man
Whose limbs were drenched with his own gore
As nails his flesh so cruelly tore? 
Those tiny toes and fingers, 
Were made to win the hearts of men!”
  
Now see the head of this newborn.
In thirty years it will be torn
By briars sharp. And soldiers feared
Will spit on it, tear out his beard.
And his mum, now just a child,
Will weep to watch her son defiled.
She’ll see the fruit of her virgin womb
Tortured to death and laid in a tomb.
  
And myrrh, the gift of this eastern king,
Will serve for this babe’s burying.
But see the shepherds, simple men.
They’ll see his body rise again!
They didn’t know then, but there’ll come a day
When the huge tomb door is rolled away.
And angel praises again will ring
As the baby, now a conquering king
  
Takes up his seat beside his Dad
And prepares your place, that’s if you’ve had
A mind to contemplate his star
And wonder (as you drive your car
To buy your tree and Christmas pud)
How this babe’s might do you good.
Now, paint your scene and write your rhyme 
and he might live for you this Christmastime.
   
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––
 
WATERWALKING - VILLANELLE
  
 She’ll have to be brave to get out of the boat
   and not look around at the waves that rage.
 She must keep her eyes on what seems to float.
  
 Thudding in the chest, tightness in the throat 
   are to be expected at this desperate stage
 but she’ll have to calm down, get out of the boat.
  
 Financial incentives, big cheques and large notes
   will not work, nor the bribe of a generous wage.
 She'll just have to bank on what stays afloat.
  
 No atlas or manual, no maxims or quotes,
   it’s far too late to read one more page.
 She must go untutored and get out of the boat.
  
 No time for words that someone else wrote,
   a mentor’s advice, the wisdom of a sage.
 She must stay focused on what keeps afloat,
  
 yell out all the things she’s learned by rote,
   rattle the bars of Leviathan’s cage.
 Come on, woman of valour, get out of the boat.
   Set your face, fix your eyes on what’s still afloat.
 
 –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 PLOUGH SUNDAY - SESTINA 
  
 Back then, we had time to consider soil and seed.
 Christmas still glowed in our hearths, its embers
 red as we left for church, walking at a gentle speed
 in snow and ice. It was our refuge in winters past.
 We entered in, hushed and reverent: young, older
 each of us welcome and with wonder in our eyes.
  
 Even the wildest of children sat silent, wide-eyed,
 between their parents - on their knees to intercede
 on well-worn hassocks. The choir sang, shoulder 
 to shoulder, well-loved hymns we used to remember.
 The plough rested for a while until frosts were past,
 propped upright near the font to hear "God Speed"
  
 in the vicar's clipped vowels, at measured speed,
 the saints' slow replies, the amens and the ayes.
 Choirmaster, verger, warden and wife - all past
 their prime, were safely gathered in - good seed
 eked out for another year, with last September's
 bounty in the bones, still warm but turning colder
  
 ... and every parishioner another year older.
 Few labourers left now, and each keen to speed
 the loading of bales before the reds and ambers
 of a dwindling sun elongate the stubble - eyes,
 shielded and squinting, blind to what their seed
 has become, missing the signs as they flash past.
  
 Sowing, reaping - the hard-won skills of the past -
 threshing and winnowing, the horse and halter,
 yield to technologists who engineer our seed
 for designer crops - hybridised, modified, speed 
 dried, vacuum-wrapped - each stage optimised 
 to run on fuel ... that will run out one December
  
 when coal, shale, gas and oil are spent, tempers
 and temperatures soar unchecked and we're past
 the point when sun or wind can service our size, 
 when meltdowns and melting poles have altered 
 Earth's tolerance of our love for stuff and speed,
 when greed for cheap food has mutated our seed.
  
 Then entropy's embers will grow colder, colder.
 Time will pass away, sand running out at speed.
 Wide-eyed and wild, we'll have eaten our seed.
   

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

HOUSE GUEST

After supper, he took the cup of tea she offered 
and put his feet up on the sofa in front of the TV.
 
Unusual, for a visitor, she thought.
 
He just kicked off his shoes           
and smiled at her until her eyes watered.
 
Later she fetched a washing-up bowl 
from the kitchen, full of warm soapy water.

'No, that's my job', he said, 
handing her a bottle of J'adore.

'This is yours'.

___________________________

TETELESTAI

It wasn't like any Good Friday sermon
I'd heard before,
No sombre procession
round the Stations of the Cross
No exhortation to one more day
of Lenten deprivation
from a man in a frock
and silky scarf.

Here was a bloke looking 
like he'd just stepped out of Burtons
telling us too ‘Have it all’.

‘Next time, you're going out to eat,’
he said, ‘Choose the best restaurant,
don't scan the menu
for the cheapest dish–
have what you really want.
Don't forego the starter.
Have steak if you like.
Don't scrimp on dessert.
Have a double portion,
a refill of coffee,
as many chocolate mints
as you can eat.

And don't fret about the bill.
Someone's taken care of it,
paid in full.

Enjoy!’

___________________________________

ROSE OF SHARON

Some say it is hibiscus, a tulip,
or a succulent, as befits the sandy plain 
that bears its name.
Flowering in the desert suits me well.
Overcoming trumps adversity.
Blooming beats barenness.

Some say it is a signifier
for the arch-overcomer.
But I resent its adoption 
by the Hypericum family–
the small islander's brassy shrub, 
one of the Birds of a Feather.

The name was rare hereabouts 
when my progenitors turned 
to Song of Solomon as their source, 
and George Beverley Shea sang me 
my very own lullaby in the nursery.
Yes, it flowered, prolific in America– 
keener, there, to acknowledge its origins.

And I have come to accept
its service to both male and female,
its persistence on maps, in soil, in sand.

Closer to home, I weep to find it 
under the eaves of crumbling chapels
where one of heaven's languages lies dying:
Bethesda, Siloam, Hebron,
Nebo, Horeb, Calfaria, Saron.

________________________________

LOOKING FOR CRUMBS – THE IMAGINED ACT

Come with me 
under the table 
to look between shoes,  
ankles – covered and naked, 
toes that peep. 
Try not to touch. 

Hand over mouth,
stifle the urge to observe 
that children won't   
have sneaked down here 
to scoff their allotted cake. 

Try not to giggle or snigger  
at what might be found 
beneath white linen. 
Just fumble for crusts, 
dropped gobbets 
in dust and fluff. 

I had no choice 
but to slither down here. 
Hope compels me  
to pretend 
there is no stink of dog 
dirt on this soul. 

There might after all 
be a healing.
______________________________________

LOOKING FOR CRUMBS – THE ACTUAL ACT
Inspired by Matthew 15:21-28

Desperation leads the desperate sometimes
… to desperate acts.
I didn’t have much hope, with a loved one 
so afflicted, 
but this Man’s fame precedes His presence here. 
I hear that he heals.

So here I am … just as I am, 
like an outcast in my own land,
separated by circumstance but compelled 
… to reach out, to appeal, 
no, to beg that He will deliver 
my loved one.

I call out to him for mercy, 
yet fear he does not hear
for, at first, there seems to be 
no response
and those who are already … 
and always … in His presence 
seem to see me
only as a stranger
for in my desperation
I am in another place.

But, however much it might appear
that he’s only here for the chosen,
however much I might fear that they alone
are fit to eat at His table,
however much they might appear to fear 
my disturbance … I must be bold
… and bend the knee before Him, 
call out for His mercy, His healing.

Even if I am despised 
as some form of low life,
I will remind Him … remind them,
that even dogs are allowed the crumbs 
that fall from the Master’s table.

And this I do. 
And He hears my prayer.
And his heart is stirred by my faith.
And my loved one is healed.

So come with me now 
towards that same table. 
Silence inner voices that say 
you’re not worthy to be here.
Reach out, even in rags, 
towards fine, white linen.

The desperate have no choice 
but to search for a crust … any morsel 
that might fall in the dust 
where we will, after all, 
find healing.

_________________________

LITTLE LANTERN

In the                   past
It was weak
cast just enough         light
to pick out the grit 
on the path              ahead 
of her footsteps 
in the night
so she could             see 
no further 
than the next 
pebble
and toed the ground
tentatively, fearing 
what might lie in       the way 
a log, boulder 
precipice, beast 
perhaps 
but time led to         trust
and one foot 
after another 
on the narrow track     assured
her she didn't need
distant scenes 
so she plodded on 
one step enough
as the                light shone
and now her eyes
have adapted
to the dark
and to the light
and she looks right                
into                  the future.

___________________________________

AQUARIUM – A SONNET

A film of algae had greened walls, prevented
those outside observing those within, clouded
liquid. Faeces clung to the bottom, the grit
invisible, scant aeration, no leaves to alleviate
the environment's toxicity. Sick specimens
lurked in the gloom, mouths reluctant to open
and when the did, odd bubbles formed, dawdled
to the surface - the whole mess, death-destined
until he poked a finger in, perturbed the poison,
released the stench. He could have chosen
to close the lid again, decided instead to grab
a bowl, decant the dabs, purge the tank, scrub
glass, bring in plants, supply fresh water, give
inmates a cleaner cell, before taking his leave.


First published in In the Cinnamon Corners, Cinnamon Press, 2017

_______________________________________________

TEXT MESSAGE

If anyone is in Christ
began the black script 
etched in matt metal
mounted on wood, hanging
or propped up 
on its little stand.
They are a new creation.

Here the teenager became cross.
She'd repeated the prayer, dozens of times,
but still felt far from new.
Dad's little plaque accused them both.
He was no new creature either
for all his professions, confessions.

The old has gone.
No it hadn't. It really hadn't.
The new is come.
She was still waiting.

Decades later and the plaque languished
at the Safestore.
She heard it calling, demanding
to be redeemed from captivity,
perhaps to be banged up again.

Everything hangs on the first line.

____________________________________

THE GARDENER

Short and squat, a man in a cap,
rolled-up shirt sleeves, old trousers
encrusted with blood and bone,
boots dusted with powdered lime.

He bent double over the latest row
marked out with stake and string
to keep it straight, wielded his dibber–
really a sawn-off fork handle–

swivelled it into the tidy tilth
to make a little hole for a seed potato.
Later he'd earth up the row
to encourage growth.

She watched, asking questions 'what, why, what for?'
in the manner of a five year old–
each answer given 
after measured thought:

"It's a fertiliser. It keeps soil sweet.
Because straight is better than crooked.
Because each seed I plant needs a little nest
to encourage it to grow up strong.

Because a good Dad loves his children”.


Previously published at https://gooddadhood.com

________________________________________

DADDY

He picked her up when she fell over, 
soothed grazes and cuts with such care she forgot pain,
wiped tears and snot from her cheeks
when she was hurt or overwhelmed
and he often overwhelmed her.

His broad smile lit up his huge face,
charmed frowns from hers.
He reached out for her hand when she felt lost or helpless,
showed her how to plant footsteps in his
when the path was rough.

He thrilled her with unlooked-for gifts,
surprised her with coincidences that were no such thing.
They had quiet places where they shared treasures
and she marvelled at his words, plans, mysteries, music.

His paintings - above all - his sunsets,
had her standing before them unable to speak.
She thanked him for the eyes to see them.
She was told she had his eyes.

The atmosphere sparked, 
there was a charge in the air when he was around–
and he usually was, unless she wandered away 
only to wonder why she would do such a foolish thing.
She climbed up on his lap, snuggled in the crook
of his arm, felt like a chick under his wing.

He held her hand, palm-up in his.
It was a small replica, resting in the mould
of  a master craftsman.
He showed her how to make new things, 
things new.


Previously published at https://gooddadhood.com

__________________________________________

FATHER FIGURES

Not as an Easter Island slabgod with face turned seaward
or ancient greybeard, barricaded by dense mist, 
or inquisitor with a sentry, immobile, forbidding entry.
It was as a fisherman, he came and caught her,
smithereened stereotypes, reset paradigms.

She turned to him. He ran to her.
She saw him, and he was not a monolith. 
She looked like him. 
He was Dad – agape with arms.

Now she climbs on him, his small princess,
and cuddles up. His breath is warm.
She sits with him. It's heavenly. 
They share their heart. 
She takes a pen. He guides her hands.
They co-create.

_________________________________________

PLAN A

Take one sphere, a globe if you like,
and let it hang there, in space, spinning.

Then take another, far less physical. 
Mix, effect a genesis. Take a risk 

in six days of collision, invasion, 
clash, cross-infection, fiery tongues, ash,

Then with consummate grace
reach down, rescue, recover, 
restore, redeem, renew, rest.

________________________________________

EXPOSURE AND PROXIMITY

Some things sully. I cannot mess with muck and keep hands clean.
Mud clings to feet.I can’t be sure my soles will stay pristine.
It’s all about exposure, mine to mire.

A quick swill may shift the stuff I’ve picked up in the sty
and a father’s cloak and arms will fly around me, if I
return and seek to go up higher

but slinking back to dirt time and again and grinding it well in
demand a deeper cleansing, a shriving for the sin,
a sacrifice, a pyre.

Some things sear.  I flap around on stumps of wings
from sorties near the flame.Bedazzled moths are reckless things.
It’s all about proximity, mine to fire.

My hardened heart has scorched me.  Like steak that’s overdone,
I’m tough throughout and charred right to the bone.
Who spares the flesh?  It’s dire.

Yet there’s another kind of fire which gently warms the heart
where light and heat are both well done and rare,
where hot hands heal and lips desire

to stifle unkind words, submit to coals that cauterise not scar.
Exposure & proximity can be for good or ill. Fire cruel or pure,
can hurt or can inspire.

One from usurper’s lake scalds carelessly through time.
The other’s from love’s source, refining till sublime.

_______________________________________

LEFT TO WRITE 

Take my hand and let me lead you past the pickle jars of time, 
past the piles of dusty volumes, past the punishment, the crime, 
to a ledge that is unworldly, a rock with stunning views
where we can hang out on the brink of sheerest risk,
like pen with ink. 

There, we'll drop our baggage tagged predictable and weak 
to hold on by our fingertips till nails shriek and break. 
Despite the pain, we will be free to tête à tête. That's synergy. 
It’s daring to exist out there but no horizon will compare.

We got so set. Now let’s get set to chop our roots, escape the net. 
Not cagebound now but cragbound. Eaglets deserving a better view.
Freed for sweeter slavery, loosed to be caught up anew,
no longer rats, we have no cage. We don't do stupour, well take the stage. 

Spurn fear of failure, compromise, let's head right out and realise 
the great rewards of living scared with gloves removed 
and knuckles bared. Hand in hand with running mate 
(childhood friend, not muse nor fate, but gift of grace 
brought down to earth. This is charisma, ours from rebirth. 

Since tied up hands become deformed, let's write with hearts, 
strangely warmed. We once chased tails in circles, futile, 
now let's launch out, get centrifugal. 
Start to soar, and soar to sing, turning skyward, on the wing. 
Neither Gollum now, nor Smeagl, ride the thermals, boldest eagles!


Copyright: Words by Sharon Larkin

The Hedgehog Poetry Press

There is a Madness in our Method

Fevers of the Mind

Writing, Poetry, Short Stories, Reviews, Art Contests

Nigel Kent - Poet

Author of 'Saudade' and 'Psychopathogen'

barleybooks

pages from an unbound book

Julie Mellor - poet

breathing through our bones

Matthew Paul

Poetry and what-not

THEN SINGS MY SOUL

Inspirational poems for a secular world

Poems for Warriors

"Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love." 1 Cor. 16:13-14

aneyefulofwords

Just another WordPress.com site

Poetry Wales

National poetry magazine of Wales.

ways with words in the city of Wells

The Wells Fountain Poets

Candia Comes Clean

Candid cultural comments from the Isles of Wonder

Coming up with the Words

Sharon Larkin's poetry news, views, reviews and translations

Sarah James Writes

Just another WordPress.com weblog

RHONDA'S Writing Blog

RHONDA 'S WRITING'S

journalread

Writings and Witterings

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started