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


Two Poppies

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

Fragments of Time

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

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 rest 
in the heart and love of God.

21 July 2016

I Name this Slug ... 
or,  After the Referendum

I found a slug in my garden
this dull grey morning;
an undulating brown body
this damp grey morning;
with swivel eyes and evil smile
this cold grey morning;
shouting loud his success to all
this bleak grey morning;
offering the world to his clan
this dire grey morning;
his very presence an insult
this sad grey morning.

Oh unloved and unlovely slug,
I think your name is Nigel.
June 23rd 2016

09 July 2016

The Red Kite

Milvus milvus - the Red Kite, Wales 1980

I stand, still as a stone in the dark shadows
leaning my back against the rough cottage wall,
spellbound by the unfolding drama above
where the Red Kites hover in the sunlit sky.
Circling on the upward thermal they keep guard
above the oak tree where they have made their home,
a wide nest of stout twigs lined with soft sheep wool,
a first brood for this cwm since many a year.      

The cock bird flies high, then dives toward the nest
his long slim body like some bronze feathered spear,
pale grey head, then russet sleek to wide forked tail.
Golden eyes searching out dangers threatening,
he scans the sky for crows, ready to defend
the high empty nest against their predations,
looking for humans who hide in the bracken
with sinister khaki canvas collecting bags.

But, just one small old man, deerstalker hatted
sits on a small stool near the foot of the tree,
today’s sentry to keep safe the precious pair,
no black crows intruding, no thieves lie waiting.
As the Kites settle down, more dangers will come,
illegal poisons, and arrogant hunters
who see themselves as the lords of creation
presuming mere birds to be their rightful prey

As our Kites rise together on the thermal
they dance in a circle of love, fluttering,
mewing and calling to announce their union,
for Red Kites are loyal and will pair for life.
For forty long days she will sit on her eggs
while he takes care of her and hunts for their food,
fresh fish and a rabbit, mole-crickets and frogs.
An earthly marriage, but one made in heaven.

Watching the Red Kites, their pinioned elegance,
their muted dignity and effortless flight,
reminds me that a bird may be a miracle 
whose beauty can outshine that of a woman,
with loyalty greater than that of a man.
As they rise upwards towards the sun I pray 
that we may love these our brothers and sisters
for all earth’s creatures are the children of God.