This morning a bird I could not name
spanned a sun I could not tame
and on the road the dazzled day
turned and turned its winding way.
Through chicanes, past milkbars ran
the path to work, the time to plan,
but I was struck by birds in view
on Kookaburra Avenue.
And God I'm sure made birds to fly
both for their sake, and yours and mine.
In dying days we see these dreams
and wait for life to burst its seams.
In ordinary time we catch
the moment when we see the latch
of heaven's door creak open, wide.
Wipe dust from street; come, come inside.
Headphone-bound, children sing as I round the corner.
The nonchalance of late morning traffic greets
a flutter of flight – black and white feathers –
painting the street in uncontrolled strokes:
a rise, a swoop, a leap, a fall.
Ballet-graced, yet deadly in its implications:
too wild, too close to the turmoil of wheels.
Cars persevere. Children sing:
Veni Domine, et noli tardare.
O come; no delay. Around the tyre-tracks of the day,
a magpie fights death as it flies.
I journey between factories and billboards and trees;
needles of light pierce the morning sky,
and in the east the vermilion city wakes.
Spanning the distance, birds fly in sequence,
sweeping sheets, kites, giant gulls across the horizon.
When I arrive I will be static, and spark at friction
from those who start their day unawares.
If I cannot have flight, O God, let me kneel;
we deny You with every passive grumble,
each scant refusal of Your song.
No other time of day can you sit still,
Here schedules mean nothing.
You may be late; that cannot be stopped.
Yet you can stop. You can look
at clumps of grass and broccoli gums
in wetlands and wonder how they looked
before this road was even thought.
You can watch
the faces as the windows pass
(no other time of day will you
see so many lives entwine).
Invent their stories.
Stop and know your own.
Hold last night’s mess in your hands
as you steer today’s wheel.
Consider the day.
Pluck your nose hair.
Watch birds fly back and forth in sequence
and fancy them a wind-blown sheet.
Name the clouds with metaphors
(a waterfall, a needle,
a walrus’s moustache).
Scan the forgotten gorges of your city and learn
how distances must be covered to move
to where you want to be.
Trace the sun as it chases the trees.
Learn all the textures of its light.
Watch the evening drape the sky.
Prise open this day’s grace.
Waves drag, anchor fails –
my God my God why
In this torpor, what lifts?
The heart, bird-like, hovers –
an albatross, a vulture?
Yet a dove dives deep and holds;
it coos what cannot be cried.
My God my God why
– too heavy for words, yet hands can be raised,
barely, above the waves.
This is enough. Moan, wail, cry.
Words are not needed where the Spirit has flight.
Trust, and open your drowning arms.
A willy wagtail, was it?
Perhaps, but no time to check What Bird Is That?
as it wags its way through lanes at lights,
a truck here turning, there a foot
I have seen its tail – proud tuft of feathers –
pluckily braving the afternoon rush,
and seen it hover, tentative,
just above Old Geelong Road,
as though not quite prepared to fly.
Sometimes it slips
beneath my sight, and then
it darts, as though to dare the traffic.
None destroy it, yet most – unaware –
continue changing lanes as they
would on any normal Friday.
Stationary, I see its tail
greet the traffic, weekend-bound;
such smallness seems almost defiant here.
Is grace defenceless as we drive?
No: cars resume, as green returns,
yet willy wags the tail, and faith
skips the traffic’s plight.
After Knut Nystedt, “Prayers of Kierkegaard, Pt. 3: Great Are You, O God” and Anathallo, “Sparrows”
When under the arch of heaven I stand surrounded by the wonders of creation, I rapturously and adoringly praise your greatness, you who lightly hold the stars in the infinite and concern yourself fatherly with the sparrow…
(Søren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses)
the roof is gone;
we behold the heavens.
Stars break through at night,
declares the day too bright for us –
as birdsong breaks
into the sanctuary quiet.
find a home…
Though altars burn
yet nothing ever
binds the hands
of Him who holds the stars
a Father, for His little flock
and opens wide the sky to show
the openness of loving hands
for sparrows, even
clothes the grass
…if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
Sparrows whistle –
grass is buzzing –
day is gaining
heat and light.
Sing O sing –
sing all creation,
sing guitar strings –
and dance, small talons,
sing and trust –
the ground now breaks
and as you hope, small sparrows,
crowns of leaves and songs
of breezes: how
weak and wilting,
how much more
will He crown you?
Early on Saturday morning, the fire brigade was called to my church – a 150-year-old heritage-listed building on the corner of one of Melbourne’s most iconic streets, and the building which my fiancée and I recently booked to celebrate our marriage. That day, the Bible reading my church family was looking at in our devotional times was Luke 12:22-34, a passage which I, by pure coincidence, found myself writing about in my poem for that day. No-one could possibly have known how pertinent that passage would be to us. Our church still stands, but we will not be able to worship together there for a year at least. It is a time of mourning for all of us. Yet, when we gathered together yesterday as a whole church community in St Paul’s Cathedral and read Luke 12:22-34 again, we were reminded of the glorious truth of God’s promises to His people. This world’s treasures, even church buildings, will all be destroyed one day. But our Father has been pleased to give us the kingdom. Today I am posting two poems to reflect on this truth. Here is the first.
After J.S. Bach, “BWV 69: Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele”
I awoke to a harpsichord of birdthrum,
the air alight with strings, a wall
of horns against the trees
and phoenixes in
the distance praised in trumpet-hope.
Toices twirled and twined around
the fretful day, where fire
(and moth and rust)
destroy the treasures of our day.
Singing like the newly born, the birds
cared nothing for death.
Every day new,
they promised what no night will tarnish:
a day of every harmony resolved
and hope that fire cannot take.