Advent 2: The Shoot

When You come back again
Would You bring me something from the fridge?
(Steve Taylor & Peter Furler, “Lost the Plot”)

Remember praise?
It fed your roots back when you learnt to crawl,
back when you burrowed into soil
eager to receive all the earth had to say.
And today?
Defeat is the last refuge of the desolate stump.
Promises of orchards seem taunting,
a mockery. We hoped such things when we were young
but now…
Even Nebuchadnezzar, cut down,
hangs no gardens, only grazes like a cow.
But remember Job of the cutdown tree
when the first shoot of green
defies the brown stump.
Remember the farfetched, microscopic life
that burrows like a promise
and fells kingdoms with its might.

Advent 1: The Stump

If no good as a tree –
no fruit budding,
no birds to rest in its shade –
then cut it down.
The wood may serve for a building or,
at the very least, a fire.
Get in first before inferno comes;
better to be a stump when the fires rage.
Resignation rests in the undergrowth,
but the faint song of Maranatha stirs
the itchy roots that remember praise…

Suscipe

Nighttime cradles you in my arms
but I am uncradled,
and what strength I have to cradle with
is finite and growing finer yet,
my widow’s mite at the temple gate,
libation pouring out.

Daytime is an offering too,
a departure yet a giving,
an act of will to defeat the Will,
a living sacrifice that draws
fire and taunts the futile Baals.
Yet I am drawn to Baal.

At night again, while summoning sleep
into your limbs that want to climb,
I climb Mount Carmel again and seek
the fusion of my breath with His.
My memories of self from freer days
are rocked to stillness yet they climb.
This tangled prayer I bundle up
and sacrifice it whole.

My Examen

Give me only your love and grace. That is enough for me.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Suscipe

Resolution is void.
The more I look inward,
the more each motive,
each spirit I discern
becomes a snarl, a defiant reminder
that my best attempts are, at best, no good.

Though I ask my conscience to justify
each act from rising to setting of sun,
only the man on the tree has answers for me.
My questions, at best, hammer nails.

What am I doing, have done for Christ?
The soldier sounds the Spirit’s reveille;
Morning exercise leaves me faint;
only Your love, Your grace animate me.

Lying upon my desultory stone,
this alone can console: the sight
of heaven descending to where I lie,
and God in this place, though I did not know.

The moment

when I realise
not that I must always be Somewhere –
fording some Jordan, scaling some Hebron,
engaged in daily grandiose deeds –
but that here, now,
at the interstice of wilful self
and the ever-grinding call
to nothing grand but

a pile of dishes,
a child needing a hug,
a moment of playing at eye-level on the floor,
a gracious word to turn away my own vigilant wrath,

is precisely where
the fear, the trembling, the working-out
of Grace’s grindstone begins.

Nourish the Soil

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none…(Luke 13:6)

If year after year I too am fruitless,
it is not for want of grace, for want
of a vine dresser to plead my plaintive case.
No, fruitlessness stems from only this:
that, granted all the soil in the world,
I prefer to go it alone,
feeding from my own proud stalk,
refusing sun, abusing breath.
What I reject as manure is
the food that I should humbly eat.
Another year; another day;
a thousand years in your gracious sight:
grant me the drooping roots to take
the life rising from Your soil.

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.