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