Companions for the journey: Reaching for Mercy

unnamed.jpgThis morning, because the start of daylight saving tricked my son into sleeping in, I had time to read. So I opened up the new poetry anthology from Proost Poets, Reaching for Mercy, a collection that I contributed to. I must admit that, the first time I looked at it, when I had just received a copy, I mostly looked for my poems, then to see if I knew any of the names. But this morning I decided to be less narcissistic and began from the front cover, and what I found as I started reading the editors’ reflections and the opening poems was a series of voices that felt familiar, like companions who cared about the same things and had walked the same paths as me: not all the same as me – some far from it – but reminders that a solo act like writing is still not done alone. When the struggle for authentic hope and faith in this world feels an increasingly steep up-hill climb, collections like this can help us feel that we have companions, fellow-strugglers to go with.

To find out more about the collection and get a copy, go here.

Sonnet for the Armchair Geographers

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You may be right, Eratosthenes…but you are not right when you take away from [Homer] his great learning, and declare that his creativity is the mythology of an old woman…Homer tells myths more accurately than later mythological authors, not totally recounting marvels, but for the sake of knowledge.
(Strabo, Geography)

Our first aim was accuracy: who could chart
The Aegean Sea, and knew the ways
Of the currents and the waves. The start
Was simple: debating who’d seen which place,
Who was a liar. The most fanciful tales
Could be dismissed. Yet the further we strayed
From well-known channels, the shakier the scales.
Maps must be confirmed, voyages replayed.
See: the more we check, the less the appeal.
The less too that we understand. We can scan
The waves now with a satellite, can steal
The dazzling truth of northern lights first-hand.
True place evades, like every dream we’ve had
Of Beirut, Aleppo, Paris and Baghdad.

Damascus Road Prayers: Advent 1

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https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/turkey-iraq-jordan-lebanon-syria/voices-syrias-youth-what-its-grow-refugee

He rose up like a shoot before Him, a shoot from the parched earth;
something spoken secretly occurred openly today.
(St Ephraim the Syrian, Nativity Hymns 1)

TV screens bear children’s prayers to a jolly man in red.
My wish list is as full as my cupboard; my spirit is silent today.
From department store dreams and desires filling reams,
O Son of Man, release us.
Shadows cast by desert palms long ago predicted
that only the thirsty will come to the well,
only the helpless will kneel.
Read history with alien desperation:
strangers in their homes know better than we
who never need long for Christmas.

Damascus Road Prayers: Saphro (Morning Prayer)

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When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, ‘at evening and at morning and at midday’.
(St Ephraim the Syrian)

From the rising of the sun –
whatever morning reveals –
to the setting of the same –
You remain.

What ruins lie at our feet –
whatever looks safer in darkness –
what night fears have haunted us –
we kneel.

And when we cannot, Lord, for aching –
when the ground kicks against us –
when the rising sun scalds us –
minds bow.

Turn our minds to the breaking of Your dawn.
The sun today blinds us –
history wounds us –
yet Your dawn is sure,
won’t fail.

Bulletproof Part 2

And, in early morning,
before the suburb rightly wakes,
a shot is fired
straight into the law.
When cars arrive
to learn for the day, there is tape
and blue-and-white cars mark the place
where safety cannot go just yet.
First impressions: a colleague mentions
ISIS, and though
a wry smile suggests irony,
beneath the comment lies the knowledge
that possibility has burst its banks
and each day may hold
the unthinkable.

Bulletproof

Reading Italo, I see
Italian youths
preparing to swim while
il Duce prepares for war.
At home, on our couch,
while afternoon leisure
blends with our tea,
a reporter speaks
to a background of song:
Australia may soon
be under attack.
The words overlap
with piano and strings
and my mind hears,
I am titanium.