The Swelling Year 2019

swellingyearDear friends,

If you have been hanging around The Consolations of Writing for a while, you might have noticed that I love using the church’s liturgical year as inspiration for my writing.

Well, this interest has been going for some years now – six, in fact – and I’ve decided to put together the best of my poems as a new book, “The Swelling Year: Poems for Holy and Ordinary Days”.

You’ll hear more about it over the next year, at this site, on the Facebook page and at the newly launched website for the book project. Check it out if you haven’t already at theswellingyear.com.

God bless,
Matt.

Ascension Day

Well, today is Ascension Day and so this marks the very last poem for my Swelling Year project. When I first set myself the task of writing a poem for every day of the liturgical calendar, it seemed to both me and to others to be biting off substantially more than I could chew. Well, a little over a year later and the project is finished – and what better way to finish than with Jesus ascending to heaven.

Ascension Day

I wonder did they see the clouds
Gather round You as You soared,
Envelop You in vapour-praise
As You rose slowly home?

And did they marvel when they saw
Gravity that day defied
Or did it just confirm for them
What they already knew?

For He, their minds might have reasoned,
Who raised the dead and was once dead –
He who made the bread stretch far
And was Himself the Bread –

Could gather clouds as witnesses
And make the air raise hands,
Could rise as though He made the sky
And was its risen King.

Rise (Saturday in Easter Week)

           And He did;
though it breaks our minds,
           He did.
The tomb is empty,
           Peter’s face
white like linen;
           Mary smiles
and hearts are soon on fire; there’s
            no reason why
the broken, wounded,
            disappointed ones
should laugh
            and leap
and heal the sick
            unless
He burst forth from the tomb
            and said,
I am always with you,
            and breathed
His spirit into them;
            unless
some cosmic shift took place
            within
all that we know is true,
            unless
He showed His hands and feet
            and said,
Now be my hands and feet,
            unless
the fiery risen Christ
            met them
in their homes and said
            Don’t fear,
unless He rose
           up from the grave
and conquered death –
           He did.

Stone Hearts (Friday in Easter Week)

It seems to cut against all logic,
What we claim that we have seen:
Dead men do not rise, the lame
Do not stand up and walk.
And though we shout and scream a name
It has no power from the tomb;
And yet His name made these bowed legs
Straighten out and move.
 
The Sadducees come, much annoyed,
For they know what all school-kids know:
That bodies once the breath’s expired
Cannot move, do not eat fish.
But in their minds, where they refuse
To listen, lies the knowledge that
If anyone could raise the dead,
He must surely be God.
 
And we know, as we always knew,
That dead men do not rise nor eat
The fish that they sent to our nets,
And know that our dull, stony hearts
Cannot be made to roll away
And send forth hearts of truth and flesh
Unless the one who made the heart
Bursts out forth from the grave.

Author of Life (Thursday in Easter Week)

“It’s true: the Author of life lay dead,
            Lay three days inside death’s tomb,
The Righteous and the Holy One
            Made Himself an offering to
Ignorant, unrighteous men
            Who knew not what they did.
 
It’s true, for we are witnesses;
            We saw Him breathe and saw Him die
And saw Him rise again and eat
            Fish and bread among us, He
Who made the fish swim, made grain grow
            And lay dead on a tree.
 
Look: the one who makes bones live
            And opens blinded eyes has made
The lame man walk along with us,
            And you too must receive
The gift of faith, the gift of life,
            The gift of utter joy.”
 
The lame man clinging onto them
            Saw the stares of men who knew
Everything yet nothing too.
            “Times of refreshing may come to you,”
Peter said, the tail’s sting
            Hanging in the wind:
 
For everything was done for them
            And nothing they could give,
Every debt was paid and all
            Faith was theirs to take,
Yet some there were who still would not
           Die that they might live.

Breaking Bread, Mending Bones (Wednesday in Easter Week)

We had seen him do the same as this –
men on mats, lame from their birth,
           men born blind,
                      women who bled,
rubbing mud into their eyes,
            ordering their legs,
                      “Now walk!”
 
And always we saw this response:
            the broken ones arising,
                                            healed,
the order of their bones arranged
           to be now as it should,
                                                       that way
           he had of taking atoms and
                       changing their whole course.
 
And yet we had not understood,
            until we saw Him breaking bread –
                        an action so domestic,
                                                            yet
                        unexpected, being dead,
            and then, I think, we understood,
                        how every promise of the Word
                        was somehow in His nail-scarred hands
            so bodies must respond to Him
                        as clay in potters’ hands.
 
And slowly there dawned in our minds
            the knowledge that just as He said
                        “Get up and walk”, he could too say
            “Your sins are now forgiven”, and
                                 “Arise now from the grave.”