Memento Mori: After Chris Wallace-Crabbe

abel pann
Abel Pann – Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

And Adam, seeing that
immortality had not clothed him but
left his glory naked,

felt in his body the future ache
of all who would toil and moil
their mortal days, and

taking Eve’s hand, he hid
their rude-awakened flesh
in the quiet of a deceitful glade

while the immortal searched
to clothe them and teach
their mortal bodies again to praise.

I, like Adam, fancy myself a god
and hide when my flesh
exposes the subtle dream.

Yet in the cool of the day,
when the creator covers my failing skin,
I can learn it is better

to be clothed by Him.

Bloom

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
(Psalm 126:5)

You’ll be glad to hear your tree is sprouting leaves
and in the midst of blossom, tiny fruit.
Your little brother’s learning all the names
for almond, flowering gum and bottlebrush;
yet you by now will know far more than this.
The grass is thriving; this week we had it mown
and all about’s the fragrance of fresh lawn.
All this you’ve never seen: the buzzing stuff
of life, but life for us waiting like
an almond tree, a hopeful Jesse-shoot.
The bursting things of spring have nothing on
the harvest feast that sings where you now dwell.
We never knew your smile, yet this we’ve known:
for every tear we’ve shed, a seed is sown.

My own garden I have neglected

Gather your spiritual bouquet…
(Francis de Sales)

Plenteous winter rain left
the backyard a grassy forest
where mallow and clover ran riot
and kikuyu spread its runners wide.
The rhizomatic tangle, lush and unbeatable,
enfolded in itself a toddler’s trucks,
a sandpit shovel, a bouncy ball, a peg,
and I, bent on order yet at odds with nature,
push a feeble mower through the shin-high jungle,
and vainly seek a clearing
to untangle my mind.

The first day of spring

began with honeysuckle and clover,
the constants of the winter yet
rendered more redolent by the scents of September
and a bee buzzing about a flowering cactus

and ended with a downpour
that sent me rushing to the clothesline
while my son stood in his raincoat and listened
to the rain

with all things – rain, sun, bee,
child and flowers – held in the same sentence
and each given its time.

Noah’s Ark: For Eli

I.
Delighted by animals, God and rain,
my son finds kinship in Noah’s ark,
commentating the story as I leaf through his Bible:
“Rain! Giraffe. Boat. Noah. Wet. Monkeys!”
How to convey what
a rainbow’s about, or how I long
for him and his brothers to be
kept safe in the ark
as the flood passes by.

II.
After the night’s deluge, I spot
a raven atop a traffic light,
tree-branch in beak,
heralding the hope of dry land.
The lights change, I drive ahead.
No flood will overwhelm today.

III.
This afternoon he found
some joyfully fluffy infant ducks
in a book and, excited, pointed them out:
“Clucklings!” he exclaimed, and how I wished
that our language could change
to make them be clucklings forever.

IV.
Reading a story of sloths, I asked,
“Do you think there were sloths in Noah’s ark?”
While he gave this all his toddler’s thought,
I amused myself with images of
the haste with which Noah packed the ark
the sloths sabotaging all his speed,
yet saved, thank God, all the same.

Testimony of Earth

For this demon who harms men and corrupts them is particularly anxious that his servants not gaze up to heaven but instead that they be bent over to the earth and make bricks inside themselves from clay.
(Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses)

At the moment of exhaling, he sanctified
the clay he shaped by his outbreathing, yet
sacred clay was only ever for shaping, not
to be shaped by. Instead
my eyes are always turned groundward and I
play in the mud pies of my mind despite
the heavenly witness that clamours for me with its voiceless speech
and, for lack
of willing human witnesses, rocks
clear stony throats to shout.