This Mess

I stubbed my toe on a London bus;
it stood in the doorway, just under us.

And by the door a bright Tonka truck
lay just where an unsuspecting limb got stuck.

And in the night a train might stray
far from its tracks into my way;

and you, dear you, might show up right
when I would rather turn in for the night

yet love is seldom a smooth affair,
and ground is better than ideal air.

True, I’d prefer to not stub my toes,
but love must bleed; that’s the way it goes.

Instruments: For Francis of Assisi

Today the church remembers St Francis of Assisi, so here is a sneak peek at a new poem I wrote based on his life and ethos for The Swelling Year.

Instruments (For Francis of Assisi)

All our instruments tend to dischord.
We turn away from harmony
in search of our own tunes.

Brother Jesus, in leper’s dress, welcomes us.
We leave Him with His bell and seek
better jewels and robes.

The channels of our hearts are noise.
Only little buds whisper the wonder
that God came as child.

Christ who died for life’s sake: teach
my miser-heart to be a pauper for love,
breathing into death.

“Consolation” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I don’t normally share other people’s work here but I read this gem this morning and it was so precious – especially the ending – that I thought I had to post it.

Consolation – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

All are not taken; there are left behind
Living Beloveds, tender looks to bring
And make the daylight still a happy thing,
And tender voices, to make soft the wind:
But if it were not so—if I could find
No love in all this world for comforting,
Nor any path but hollowly did ring
Where ‘dust to dust’ the love from life disjoin’d;
And if, before those sepulchres unmoving
I stood alone (as some forsaken lamb
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth)
Crying ‘Where are ye, O my loved and loving?’—
I know a voice would sound, ‘Daughter, I AM.
Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?’

Botany for Children

The touseled children
have their own way
with trees,
their own classification…
(Chris Wallace-Crabbe, “Timber”)

Some are named for likeness
to familiar things: the lemon tree
in Nanna’s garden becomes
a prototype for all other trees
in all other gardens.

And some are named
by analogy or comparison:
big tree, little tree,
special tree; and what
is bottlebrush but a metaphor turned
to proper use?

Yet others gain
the specificity of the eager learner,
like Adam flushed
with the daily discovery of all
living things and growing things,

and as tongue learns it way
around the tangled mechanics of thought,
a surprise clarity: paperbark!
a joyful melaleuca.

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.