Listen to the heart beats
Click-clack. Click-clack. The rhythmic sound
of stays flapping against the cold bare masts
of small boats sailing the black tarmacked
dinghy park, metallic heart beats in the wind.
Fishing boats, rescue boats, pleasure boats,
all sharing the heart beat of river and ocean.
Thud. Boom. Echoing like rocks revolving
in a great steel drum, proud waves declare
their might, their heart beats fuel an ocean
and reorder the contours of land and shore.
The tide’s rhythm is ordered by the moon,
thus hearts of moon and waves beat as one.
Above the arid heat of a fading landscape
the stuttering heart beat of thunder rises up,
like a patient shocked upon a white table that
life might return to that which once had died.
Rain falls, a soft drumroll on leaf and field,
and the heart beat of the land is revived.
The susurration of a gentle summer breeze
in the evening forest, discrete heart beats
of a hidden place unostentatious and shy,
echoes the soft cooings of a sleepy dove.
Here is an oasis where each fragile heart
may rest in the universal heart of God.
The collective heart beat of a mob around
the stake and funerary pyre, shouts shrill
into the blazing morning: “Kill the witch!”
The collective heart of high righteousness
thumping its heavy beat on the white van
screams: “Go on, hang the bloody bitch!”
The heart’s beating may follow the mob
as lemmings run to the precipice’s edge;
may hover like a lost feather in the wind;
may choose as its guardian and its guide
the bright light of science and reason, orGod’s love, the heart beat of the world.
Across the Bay
I stare across the water mesmerised
by a shaft of brilliant light, like a lunar
arrow penetrating the deep darkness
far beyond the mysterious horizon.
This portent my signpost to God
my hope, my meditation, my prayer.
“Wohin is Gott?” Nietszche’s
Madman cried - Where is God?
And to himself replied: “Wir haben
ihn getötet, ihr und ich” - We have
killed him, you and I. A wise fool
the death of his God proclaimed.
God knifed in the back, abandoned
in the jungle, sentenced to oblivion,
a crumbling leaf on a dying tree,
decried, ignored, forgotten creator
of the universe and king of kings,
a fast fading shadow over our land.
But can God who was never born, die?
Must those who discover the voice
of the sacred in the bell’s summons
to the altar, abjure that mystery?
Is my soul’s love to be prescribed
by a chill logic and dry philosophy?
Deus - Θεού - God - الله - Dio - Duw,
patterns of sound, a verbal shorthand
with no profound universal meaning,
significant only to the solitary mind which,
driven by reason or ignorance, custom
or creed, it will repudiate or embrace.
There is no human intellect so infinite
that it can comprehend the full meaning
of “God,” no science so definitive that it
may safely pronounce that God is dead,
nor human design so perfect that it may
offer more than a token of the divine.
Whether or not God exists, whether
faith and practice alone absorb such
fantasies into my fevered mind, I put
my trust in the God my heart’s eye has
seen in the bright darkness at the end
of a path cut by a sacred silver arrow.
The horse with curved ears
Bred and born to bear a royal prince,
curved ears meeting to form a crown,
magnificent mane streaming proud
in the desert winds, the Marwari horse,
patient, sure footed and brave, carried
his soldier master through the heat
of the long day, his loyal companion,
fierce defender and lifetime friend.
A fighting horse, a dancing horse
with coat of fine spun pale gold, eyes
set wide, luminous, large and deep,
harnessed with silver and glossy silks
decorated with flowers and plumes,
this was the darling of the Rajput
warrior and the pride of Rajasthan,
the wonder horse of Old India.
My soldier ancestors who lived,
loved and died in India, scorned
the native horse with curved ears;
British pride chose the thoroughbred
and rode the polo pony from Europe.
Independent India cruelly consigned
the rich man’s warhorse to history,
the Marwari to the shafts of a cart.
Be glad that the saffron turban, bright
symbol today of Rajput courage is seen again,
master and horse reunited shine
as one in civic festival, field and dance
sharing their old mystic symbiosis
whereby the protector of the equine
virtues renews those same virtues
of faithfulness and trust within himself.
But meditate today on the continuing
fate of the luckless Marwaris who,
through the blistering heat of summer,
still loyal, still patient in their misery,
must haul cruel tons of wet bricks to the kiln.
Quivering limbs stumble the long miles,
eyes close against the dust and pain
and the once proud heads hang low.
Such cruelty springs from poverty,
its victims the poor sad beasts upon
whom their wretched masters depend.
Lay aside now your precious search
for eternal truths and your comfortable
enlightenments, empty out your mind
that you may hear the still small voice:
‘These too are my children - love them.’
The shortest day - the longest night
Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or, The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun
‘Today’ said the Lord, ‘I offer you my children
a choice and I command that both
heaven and earth shall bear witness to it.
You may freely choose the gift of Life, or you may
choose the final sleep that comes in Death.
Life will bring you many blessings,
but to die untimely may be a barren curse.
My children, choose life.’
A man weeps and, distraught, shouts
to the lowering slate cold sky:
‘I am become weary of this earthly life,
of its sorrow and its deep unremitting pain,
its bleak injustice and its abject fear.
My wife is gone from me, my children lost,
my dreams vanished in the reality of a cold dawn.
I choose oblivion and Death.’
‘My nest was emptied’ softly croons a rock dove,
‘when thieving jackdaws took my nestlings,
and, like an angel banished from heaven, my mate
plummeted to earth as lighting struck the forrest.
But I shall live to find another mate and build
another nest, to rear another brood
and feed another lay of helpless peeping chicks.
That is why I must choose Life.’
‘Consider’ said the Lord, ‘this bright glow
of winter aconites, more exquisite than any royal queen,
who strive neither for wealth nor for vain glory,
but who dying will accept the welcoming hand
of the dark angel and give to him their seeds,
that swelling buds may come to full term
to make lovely the hallowed land I have given you.
They have chosen Life renewed.’
‘I am a no-thing,’ murmurs the stream,
‘I merely move in the stony bed of His appointing.
My part is to set free my sparkling waters
to flow for ever beneath the wide sky,
that there may be life for small fish, a mirror
to reflect the ravishing beauty of the kingfisher
and a safe haven for the dragonfly.
Always would I choose Life’
The man sits quiet in the silence of the cold night,
the longest and darkest of the year.
He turns his pallid face upwards to look
at the stars, a thousand gilded beacons
lit to welcome a new year, new hope, new life.
Anguish and exhaustion dropping away from eyes
once made bleak by misery, he whispers
‘I pledge that I too will choose Life.’
Bridge in the sky
My pavement plodding feet protested
that their bones hurt; muscles seized
with the chill of the damp afternoon
cried ‘Hold, enough, now is the time
for a soft chair beside a glowing fire.’
But a rogue breeze touched my cheek
and whispered ‘Turn around, and look
at the symbol in the sky, an airy bridge
where the old double headed dragon
who sees both before and behind,
mediates between earth and heaven.’
I turned around towards the cold east
and saw a great arc of light, its seven
colours springing from the headland,
spanning the bay and sinking gently
into the distant horizon’s misty edge.
Each translucent droplet was made
a prism by the pale sun’s emerging
rays as dark rain clouds drifted away
into the afternoon’s jealous embrace.
Tired, foot weary and cold no longer,
I stood filled with wonder at this sign.
This was the bow Yahweh set in the
sky to confirm his covenant with Noah
that never again would such a flood
threaten the world of his children;
this was the silhouette from which
came the myth of the Rainbow Serpent,
creator god bringer of life and death;
these were the colours that inspired
the Rainbow Flags, symbols of hope,
of inclusion, of tolerance and reform.
But I thought on none of these things.
I heard the waves beat on the sand,
a brisk Intrada fit for welcoming a king.
Touched by the immutability of God
I felt enveloped in a new soft warmth,
which seemed to radiate from this
celestial miracle, today come glowing
into my world, and I sang a mute Jubilate.
For I saw clearly the bright ribbon of light
in the heart of this magic arch, holding
the universe secure in an invisible web,
and the source of my pure undiluted joy.