Broadstairs, Autumn 2017
Today the fierce heat of high noon
is gone like feathers in the wind,
wheeling and dancing bravely into
the chill sea fret outside my window,
while circling gulls are crying out
for bright summer to return once more.
Turnstone birds have already flown south
from the winter of their Arctic home,
a thousand or more windswept miles each day,
to find here beneath seaweed and stones
a welcome feast of mollusc and shrimp,
their own unique St Martin's Summer.
Come Autumn we too feel the warmth
and comfort of this holy season,
for the Saint has split his cloak once more
to share with a shivering beggar,
cast off his armour and sheafed his sword,
radiant with love, compassion and peace.
October's dark clouds are pierced with gold,
and our souls overflow with the Saint's love.
The brightening sky sings out in praise
for the man who, with gentle hands held high,
comforts us, blesses us and prays for us.
God be praised for Saint Martin de Tours.
17 March 2017
I met an old man in my wanderings,
with thin grey hair and pale aged eyes,
who smiled at me as we passed
through the kissing gate at the end
of the path down from the high town.
By his side a dog of indiscriminate
parentage, brown inquisitive face,
ragged ears, eyes as dark and deep
as waves which caress the old jetty.
His nose pushed into my hand, he
bestowed wet kisses on my fingers.
“Privileged creatures dogs - further
than a mere man would dare go
with a stranger.” his master said.
He blew me a kiss and went away
whistling a sad haunting tune,
but his step was brisk and the set
of his head that of a happy man.
On a bank at the edge of a field
newly greened beneath the wall
of the old town, two hares boxed
on the March snow dusted turf.
They circled, hind legs erect,
feet en demi point, long ears
akimbo, front legs curved high
into the sky, two peasant dancers
in a dizzy rural pas de deux
whirling, bobbing, wheeling,
then subdued he bowed to her,
and docile followed after her.
I watched them, two brown
snowflakes, Eostre’s children
who melted away invisible
among the old trees, their once
exuberant presence marked
only by faint tracks in the snow.
I stood at the open graveside
where the old man lay in his coffin,
his small brown dog beside me
long nose resting on brown paws.
‘Eternal rest grant unto him
Light perpetual shine upon him’
The dog, sighing, licked my hand.
Together we walked the path
down from the old high town,
past the old dark forest where
young leverets sleep and play
and white wood anemones bloom.
On to the beach amongst the
blue sea holly and grey leafed kale
are two new March Hares running
headlong into the new spring sun.
Brown Dog barks, and chases
a flock of teetering sandpipers,
while I hold up my arms to
radiant Phoebus, dazzling symbolof Love and Light come again.
18 December 2016
A tenebris ad lucem
From darkness to light
"And so my dearest Aunt I have to tell you
I have been given an old manuscript
of A Tenebris ad Lucem, which I must study
eating my way through its covers and leaves.
Its oak boards would be my book cover of choice,
but on each vellum leaf of text the miniatures
of bright malachite and lapis lazuli,
of gold and cinnabar, show stories so shocking
that it seems I am embarking on a journey
through a land of diabolical horrors.
"I walk now in a dark forest where dense foliage
overwhelms the light, and the stony path
leads only into a miasma of despair.
I peer out between massive trees to see
a site both of tragedy and savage beauty.
A great wall of water, Leviathan risen
from the ocean, pounds inexorably across
the land destroying everything in its path,
whole villages smashed, animals and men
tossed into the air like feathers in the wind.
"Across endless fields of battle, I hear nations
mourning their dead, the flowers of many forests
are cut down and shattered by mine and gun,
enemies attack in an unseemly dance
of cracking sinew, hot blood and broken bone.
The little Forest Owlet cries out for his home
disappeared under the blade of an illicit axe,
an Amoy Tiger roars in vain for his lost mate
while a single Great Humped Back Whale sings
his eerie threnody to a long empty sea.
"It is as if all the oppressed and dispossessed
of this land are gathered at my back with
voices raised in a great Anthem of Destruction
which almost completely overwhelms me.
Numb, I shrink back into my orange shell,
fold my six legs and await my gruesome fate.
But the dark canopy falls away and tall figures
clothed in light glide across a sunlit plain,
proclaiming that love alone heals loss and sorrow,
and brings fresh hope into a world of fear.
"Boys who once carried rifles on their shoulders
play again in green fields beside the river,
the starving and the homeless are sheltered and fed,
prisoners are set free and old enemies embrace.
An Amoy Tigress comes out of the forest
two new cubs playing like kittens around her heels,
flowers wash the ground where blood once was spilled,
eager saplings spring from craters of devastation.
It is a new song this shining world now sings,
a soaring Hosannah of love and joy.
"I make my way along the path through soft grass
into the golden light of a new day,
through the final leaf of my book to find
the old oak board, gateway back to my home.
As I pass the figures of light, one with eyes
deep and dark as the waters of Bethesda,
gives me a blessing and I see that his wrists
are deeply scarred where nails were driven through.
And I bow low to this Man of Light and Peace.
I remain as ever your most affectionate nephew,
Apollonius Bostrichus Capucinus”
The Mark of Love
He sits in my bleak cold garden
perched lordly on the old oak table.
He does not move but stares unblinking,
not asking but demanding more
of the flame raisins he has found
in the cracked old Japanese bowl.
I watch him as he cocks his head
turning from one side to the other,
the dark eyes intelligent and sharp
reminding me of the rare talents
and avian persistence lodged
in this small being of brown and red.
“I am the little bird” he says,
“who, come the Spring, pours out his song
like a nightingale in the hedgerow
singing beneath the silver moon,
rich notes ringing through the warm night
to summon my love back to our nest.
“But once I flew into a cold stable
where a swaddled new born baby lay.
Ox and donkey slept soundly there,
while the baby shivered in his bed
and his mother stretched out her soft hand
to caress my brown feathered coat.
‘Bird’ she said, ‘can you rebuild the fire?
For the night is icy and I fear
for my baby so helpless and so young.’
I flapped my wings like small bellows
and sang to her until the flames
leaped like fiery darts into the sky
“Consumed with a rare love for the child,
too close I went to the roaring fire
and the dull brown feathers of my coat
smouldered blood red bright in the darkness.
But the boy smiled in a deep sleep
and his mother offered me her thanks.
“She looked tenderly at my burned
feathers, and blessed me with a kiss
to set as a seal upon my heart.
I have fought for my territory,
and beak stabbed my feathered brothers
but still I carry the Lady’s mark of love.”
I remember now his constant harrying
of the hungry Blue Tits, but how
can I resist those pleading eyes?
So I fill up the old bowl with fruit.
and, as he sits beside me to take it,
‘God bless you my little Red Breast’ I pray.
29 October 2016
At the beginning of November
I bought two poppies.
One, with its blood red petals sharp edged symbols
of pain and death, its thin green drooping leaf and wiry stalk
wound about with flimsy ribbons of dull green plastic,
I pinned into my button hole.
The other flower, soft and white like a velvet star in the sky,
I pinned above my heart, and asked the God of Mercy
to lead us in our search for peace.
Waking to the dawning of the eleventh day
of the eleventh month,
I looked up at a sky where the sun wove
thick reddening clouds into an empyrean landscape
of poppies, mimicking dark fields saturated
with the life blood of men who, like early rotting corn
untimely harvested, lay scattered across the fields of death.
Beneath this wine red canopy, I asked the God of Hope
that he might bring us out of darkness into light.
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day
of the eleventh month
I stood not in a church, nor beside a cenotaph,
but on a bitter cold cliff rising high above the coast of Kent.
There when I listened to the wind I heard the echoing thud of guns,
there in the rain I felt on my hands warm rivulets of blood,
there, as I remembered them and honoured them,
I wept for all those who died, for every widow who mourned,
and for every sorrowing fatherless child.
Our world today is still wracked with unceasing bloody slaughter,
and in the name of the Man of Peace I ask the God of Love
that we may some day offer to all our enemies
the gentle white poppy of peace.
Amen So may it be
18 September 2016
A young shepherd, leading his sheep,
climbed the mountain to see a bush
burning perpetually bright,
heard in his heart the voice of God:
'Moses, you are chosen to lead
my people to their Promised Land.'
Lightning flashed in the searing heat
and choking dust on the long road
from Jerusalem to Damascus,
where Saul became Paul, and met
with his God in the thin place
between earth and eternity.
Blake in his mind’s eye saw a world
complete in a speck of warm sand
and Heaven in a cool primrose,
a microcosm of Creation
neither a dream nor a nonsense,
but a gift from almighty God.
Some seventy odd years ago
on the wings of an unseen bird
a blind man flew up in the sky
to sing with the stars and dance
again in the streets of heaven,
there to touch the face of his God.
A child on the hillside opened
a window into Paradise
where the sun shines eternally,
but she was afraid that soon she
must die and never find again
this fragment of time out of time.
But the fragment is eternal
and bleak despair slowly departs,
as she comes to understand that
in the mystery of his presence
the soul may find eternal joy
in the glory and love of God.
Amen So may it be
27 July 2016
Into this bright morning
when birds are singing
may I walk with God;
When worry and confusion
attack at noon day
may I talk with God;
In the heat of the afternoon
weary already of the day
may I put my trust in God;
In the cool of the evening
as the light fades from the sky
may I give praise to God;
In the kindly dark of the night
may my soul take its restin the heart and love of God.