A Mindlessness Prayer

These days when all of the socks are odd
and all your thoughts are scrambled eggs
and, try as you might to talk to God,
nothing much makes any sense,

for the rubbish awaits in noisome piles,
the bills are due and so’s the tax
and the laundry measures its depth in miles
and the devil has pains for idle backs –

unjumble yourself in a heap at Christ’s feet;
ramble and rant to the maker of ants
and all that creeps the planet, replete
with all its tangled, unnecessary plants;

rejoice to be useless and childlike and weak;
rejoice that you cannot make anything work;
rejoice and delight that the end of the week
will come round regardless of what you deserve;

and delight to know that mindless you are
yet He who is mindful of you holds the stars.

“Consolation” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I don’t normally share other people’s work here but I read this gem this morning and it was so precious – especially the ending – that I thought I had to post it.

Consolation – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

All are not taken; there are left behind
Living Beloveds, tender looks to bring
And make the daylight still a happy thing,
And tender voices, to make soft the wind:
But if it were not so—if I could find
No love in all this world for comforting,
Nor any path but hollowly did ring
Where ‘dust to dust’ the love from life disjoin’d;
And if, before those sepulchres unmoving
I stood alone (as some forsaken lamb
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth)
Crying ‘Where are ye, O my loved and loving?’—
I know a voice would sound, ‘Daughter, I AM.
Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?’

Memento Mori: After Chris Wallace-Crabbe

abel pann
Abel Pann – Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

And Adam, seeing that
immortality had not clothed him but
left his glory naked,

felt in his body the future ache
of all who would toil and moil
their mortal days, and

taking Eve’s hand, he hid
their rude-awakened flesh
in the quiet of a deceitful glade

while the immortal searched
to clothe them and teach
their mortal bodies again to praise.

I, like Adam, fancy myself a god
and hide when my flesh
exposes the subtle dream.

Yet in the cool of the day,
when the creator covers my failing skin,
I can learn it is better

to be clothed by Him.

Testimony of Earth

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.

George Herbert at Bemerton

I am the man who has seen affliction…
(Lamentation 3:1)

His portrait would have him
serenely contemplating a garden,
one hand raised beatifically
like the saints of old.

Often I would have my days like that,
passed in that perfect serene of green,
spirit quiet within like the waters without,
no trouble straining pastoral brow.

But poems and pastors are not made like this;
the cure of souls is the work of the broken,
and contemplation is fuel for deed,
the quiet where turmoil turns to seed,

and the man who knew thoughts that were all cases of knives
was no doe-eyed dreamer but a brother to affliction,
and in earth’s pulley his grief pulled upward
and poems sprung from the love-mended rhyme.

Toddler-speed

Only when we are going somewhere does he dawdle,
suddenly eager to investigate every fencepost,
every garden paver.
When we’ve all the world’s time, he hurries,
as though life might catch him before he is done,
as one learns to do when small
and only grown-ups can open doors for you,
where moments must be seized
before a “No, Eli!” takes them away.

But when on a journey, each surface and texture needs study,
each streetlight’s a marvel,
and each fence might contain a “Woof Woof” to call friend.
No hurry then, no trajectory,
only the entranced study
of a miniature scientist at his craft.

And so I, clock always in mind, must submit
to this other time. The urge to say,
“Come on, Eli,” must be tempered
by the truth
that his toddler-speed shows me:
that all this is wonder, and world enough
and time
are in our Father’s hands who holds
our fingertips and says, “Come on,”
not for haste
but so we may take it all in.
Slowing down, I take more in.

If Ye Love Me

So many ways to wash feet:
the posture, not the precise nature of the action, matters – poised
at ground level, familiar with the dust
and grime of the day’s streets,
outer garments shed to throw off all show,
the creak in the knees accompanying the splash
and the mess of the self washing off in the bowl.

So many ways, yet I
am more comfortable to be Peter:
indignant, swinging
between pride and gung-ho humility,
reserved and haughty in equal measure,
more at home with excuses
than the flagrant shame of love.

If I would be a disciple, I need only start
with the crick in these old, ossified joints
as I teach them to get love’s job done.