For this demon who harms men and corrupts them is particularly anxious that his servants not gaze up to heaven but instead that they be bent over to the earth and make bricks inside themselves from clay.
(Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses)
At the moment of exhaling, he sanctified
the clay he shaped by his outbreathing, yet
sacred clay was only ever for shaping, not
to be shaped by. Instead
my eyes are always turned groundward and I
play in the mud pies of my mind despite
the heavenly witness that clamours for me with its voiceless speech
and, for lack
of willing human witnesses, rocks
clear stony throats to shout.
“Not too many poets has it been given…to live one of their own poems.”
(G.K. Chesterton, St Francis of Assisi)
If I would be Francis, troubadour to God,
before I can sing Creation’s canticles, I must tend
to the sleeping children in my room
and die again, again to the self
that craves to be higher than them.
Only then can poetry shine,
until then being only words.
At the beginning God expressed himself.
(John 1:1 – J.B. Phillips Translation)
The urge to speak, to connect:
is it heresy to find this in the Immortal,
the all-sufficient? Having
no need of us, and yet
He speaks –
is Word. And we,
the subjects of His sentences,
are warmed by the light of His present tense,
this way, and that,
choosing darkness and silence
yet crying out to the night to hear us.
Hear us. Here with us,
in word, in deed,
in breaking bread.
where, on the shore, He had
already assembled, as a table,
prepared for expected guests,
a charcoal fire, some fish laid out,
and, being himself the bread,
a loaf laid for good measure.
No need, of course, for the fish they brought.
No need, either, for that excess in their boats.
To feed seven mouths plus His,
that net-bursting horn of plenty was,
as old Judas, wilting, would have had them know,
not quite au fait.
Yet fitting – that He who made Leviathan solely to frolic
should choose to play with the resources of Galilee
to make much of these staples,
to invite, to delight,
and in the olive branch of this table set
in the presence of friends and enemies
to ask, as the mercy-cup overflowed in the background,
Simon, do you love me?
You create and give; I take and arrange
words like atoms, rhythms like pulses
and the matter of your cosmos like
the setting of a table:
an act of grace here, a wilderness feast.
You create and I, created, imitate.
More, I steward
the tones you have embedded in our movements, our speech.
I listen and echo
the hidden poundings of the muted heart,
as a host at table might –
Here, a space is left for you.
And then I point,
first to you who, poised at the vast edge of nothing,
said, Let there be.
And then, second, to the open arms,
the nails, the wood,
the carpenter carved up to make
a home for us.
And so it starts over: our spinning way
Around the sun; our cycle of light, dark,
Hot, cold; plants losing, gaining leaves and bark.
If we hear what the seasons have to say,
It will be only their incessant bay,
Their insistant reminders – at the park
Or down the street – to heed the spark
Of summer light, and the dying winter day.
If dull the repetition, or senseless
The way we never move on or remain,
I will take a toddler’s view and address
The new day with the delight its maker
Feels when he sets the sun’s circuit to recur,
That this – all this – can happen again, again!
entwined with the gull’s wing
in pink seastring
among polished shellflakes
where the dog inspects the ocean’s rip
and the children tag along.
beside you with the waves’ murmur
as ever-renewing current speaks
of voices long ago which said,
Here shall you go; no further.
And it hums
in the morning wind which blows
like tumbleweed over
the criss cross of the sand.