At the sink he perches
atop his two-stepped seat to watch
a morning routine that's utter
prose for me, discovery for him:
how I wet
the shaving brush, lather soap,
then smooth the jawline
of my beard, and how
I brush my teeth without
protest, without needing
to eat the toothpaste with each brush.
And then how I open
the mirrored cabinet and take
my pill-cutter, split
Escitalopram in two, and scoop
water into my mouth to swallow.
"What will you swallow, Dad?"
How to answer?
"Medicine," I say, "to help
the chemicals in my brain."
"Maybe," he says, "when I am bigger,
I will take some medicine too."
Oh my love. "I hope not,"
is all I can say,
"because then you won't have
the sickness I have."
And as talk turns to other
my father heart churns
with the weight of this,
while pandemic and cabin fever
test the power of the pills, the rage
of being Dad drives the nerves
that splash water on my morning face.
day is a
rising struggle, a
bark in the dark
and a claw at the
If you see me
with my paws
then take my
in hand til I’m
…everything that is illuminated becomes a light…
Too dark, Leonard.
Just after Solstice, the days still short,
the dark surprised me in its early arrival,
and your first song grabbed me
with its midnight-pitch grip,
and Isaac bound by demons,
crying, Here I am, Lord.
These days are dark enough; I
turned from you to Bach,
where even wintry Leipzig
could sing with counterpoint.
I did not want it darker. The darkness always gapes
and I have fought for life to prise
myself out from its grip.
A cry of what? Of pain?
I cry, I cry, out to the Light
to banish dark again.
However it hits us – with sudden strike
Or slow attrition – it hits all the same.
Movements may be slower, tentative, like
A creature not accustomed to the day;
Or, paralysed, you might see the sun and
Not know that it calls you to anything
But sleep. If so, sleep deep. Tomorrow’s hand
Is stayed for now. Times without mask can bring
The faces that we long for, and our feet
When broken trample less. Now you may know
The truth that says Liar! to the swift and fleet.
In all these days of infinite regress,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, it says.
The copers always say yes until the last
and the question’s sincerity must be matched with the moment,
the timing devised for the heart to respond:
no hallway exchanges, or coffee machine chit-chat.
Space is required – a safe place to land
when sand bags and bubbles collapse.
Too late to be asking when the home is not made,
when the body’s been drifting in the rye all this time.
Catch long before the question is asked;
catch long before the reply.
So William Blake begins his poem “A Poison Tree”. Where as Christians do we take our anger, or all the other messy emotions that seem not to belong comfortably in our faith? We can start by taking them to the Psalms.
Well, iTunes is not co-operating with me trying to get my podcasts available through the store, but here is the second one, a reflection on the power of the Psalms for dealing with anger, despair and depression. The recording is available for download here and at Soundcloud. If you like what you hear, please let others know so that these reflections can get to the people who need to hear them.
…the dread of something after death –
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns – puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of…
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet)
What dreams may come when we set out for stars?
What will we find when, solar systems pierced,
We gaze beyond the reach of looking-glass?
That our Sun has a cousin much more fierce?
That Pluto’s a planet after all? That we
Are not alone? That man’s an errant knave?
That, mirrored in Kepler 452b,
We see our fate: as rock without any wave?
Still, wave; don’t drown. Light millennia stand
Between us and our twin; no cheap flights
To suss out greener grasses. Best-laid plans
Must prove themselves or else be caught in light.
Hope makes a fool of missions to other spheres,
Always ready when true land appears.