All day the hazardous haze,
yesterday too. I feared to take
the children outside; even the garden
was clothed in the smoke of elsewhere on fire.
we saw the world,
a greenbluebrown orb of God’s grace
heaving with the death of it
and caught the surge
through smoke-drunk eucalypts
of a day that will come yet bids us fight
for the day when we’re no longer burning.
We don’t have jetpacks.
We still walk, don’t hover,
there’s no button to press to pick your dreams,
and still only some dreams come true,
not all good.
Old men still have grey beards, if they have beards.
We can predict much and change little.
Some things we prolong.
Some days we are better, some days worse.
We have not finished the tower of Babel.
Cain still envies Esau, and Seth
tries to stay well out of it.
We haven’t stopped the fires burning,
though many are scorched and tired from the effort.
Heaven is still an apology away,
and most days that’s still a bridge too far.
Astroboy has not been born,
astroturf invades the street.
This is not quite how we imagined,
exactly how we’ve made it.
My rugged way to heaven, please God.
(Christina Rossetti, “Old and New Year Ditties”)
Sometimes a harvest, sometimes fallow,
sometimes Job’s cut-down tree,
the year passes in a sighing nonetheless,
a barely whispered “Yet”:
yet this is not all,
this is not how all years shall go,
this is not the only movement that time possesses for us,
this is not the only sun our earth will orbit ’round,
this is not the end of years,
this is not the ground.
Tomorrow await ever-new mercies;
tomorrow see what tarries yet
will surely not delay.
As the decade breathed its last weary breaths, we sweltered,
haze blowing over from the north and west and east
and the fire station on Anderson Street set up
its red-painted TOTAL FIRE BAN sign.
We had it okay; not everyone did.
Our worst fears were heat and the once-in-a-decade chance
that fire might make it this close to the Bay.
While the kids went crazy, we blanketed
the house in blinds,
switched off all lights, pulled down the awnings, until
the 4 o’clock onslaught sent them gusting up in wild and rain
and I raced to the clothesline to secure pyjamas
while out front our overgrown branches teetered
perilous over the powerline.
By evening everything’s refreshed, nothing ruined.
I gather breeze at windowsills while
a rainbow reminds that flood will not destroy us.
Our pride might yet, or stupidity.
A new decade tumbles across the plains;
Grace will show what Grace alone knows.
After all we have done and left undone,
after joy, after grief, after unbelief,
after wrapping paper scattered on floor,
after food is gone or stashed away,
after conversations thrive or starve,
after bombs are thrown and names are known,
after fire and flood, after duties done,
after every going down of Sun,
the darkness still has not overcome,
the darkness will not overcome.
Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon…
(Christina Rossetti, “Christmas Eve”)
Minutes before the shops shut, I walked
supermarket aisles with other forgetful ones,
gleaning the last sheaves of festive cheer
while the muzak paused to say it was time.
And two millennia ago, a carpenter and his pregnant bride
found themselves strapped for place and time,
entering mess and forgetfulness,
and God came into the dark.
And driving home I passed the lights of the street,
dazzling with their explosive brightness.
It all leads here: tomorrow shops will shut, corks will pop,
paper will rustle in symphonic joy.
And in a manger God chose the dark,
the small forgotten things, and still,
still He comes into the dark.
Our lights are too bright to see Him.
…he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.
(Psalm 143:3 KJV)
my brother and I sleeping on
fold-out beds in our grandparents’ living room,
I found myself awake
well past the usual hour, and
my thoughts like the room plunged
in obsessive black, save
for a red electric glow from some
unidentified source, I knew no
comfort to tether me
to the physical facts of things – that here
I was, and there my brother was, and
upstairs my grandparents slept and
somewhere out there was the lapping of the sea,
the daggers my nighttime mind turned inwards
and the sheer obsidian
absence of light,
and though morning and my brother’s voice
restored me to earth, the night
with its limitless black save
that relentless red glow
have clung to me since
as the knowledge of Hell.
I must have a light
that can dispel such a dark.