In memory of Kathleen Mary Savage, 1929-2020
Beside thistled paddocks I make my way,
sun nestled in grey,
faint light peeking through.
These paddocks contain
the means of my flight,
and when I arrive where the fruit trees grow
I shall see what's lost of home.
When final breath is breathed in the night
and what faces we knew
we scarce recognise,
when all that we've lost
is in memories of home,
we will return, though some
And when the clouds part into light,
shall we see what the morning brings?
A grandmother young,
a conquering king?
In thistled paddocks,
still tied to ground,
the flight has not shown
what one day will be shown.
But this we know: the fighting shall cease
and when we set foot once more on ground
we shall be young among apple trees
and love upon love will return.
Here death is a vulture:
devours face and memory,
claws at carrion, feeds on fullness
like life was flesh,
fit for the taking.
But life is a million
intangible moments, all
dazzling and passing
in Eden-sunk grief
and Life won't go silently,
while Death - old materialist -
denies Life ever was.
We have seen it, and held it.
We bear its witness.
We stroke its unresponsive hand
and pray to beg it back.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
You’ll be glad to hear your tree is sprouting leaves
and in the midst of blossom, tiny fruit.
Your little brother’s learning all the names
for almond, flowering gum and bottlebrush;
yet you by now will know far more than this.
The grass is thriving; this week we had it mown
and all about’s the fragrance of fresh lawn.
All this you’ve never seen: the buzzing stuff
of life, but life for us waiting like
an almond tree, a hopeful Jesse-shoot.
The bursting things of spring have nothing on
the harvest feast that sings where you now dwell.
We never knew your smile, yet this we’ve known:
for every tear we’ve shed, a seed is sown.
I am the man who has seen affliction…
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.
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.
(Written on Holy Saturday in Bicheno, Tasmania)
The oath must still hold true yet waiting dries expectation;
the dew of your youth evaporates in the tomb.
Now: what the LORD said to David’s Lord is unchanged,
but the rods of foes seem the triumphant ones today.
Only Pilate’s wife regrets the washing of hands; only women weep.
Only in secret do we take your body to its tomb.
In the morning, with spices and sorrow we will greet
your right hand and your nail-torn feet,
with your king’s footstool too heavy to roll away,
and something like morning tackling deadened hearts.
Drink by the brook as you wait, if you can;
silence might hold some promise in this night of nights.
Well, today is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis, one of my favourite authors. To commemorate the man and his body of work, here is an essay I have written about him – part of a larger book I am writing on the role of emotional suffering in the lives of significant Christian writers. I hope that this essay can help open up for you aspects of Lewis’ life and work which I have found particularly helpful in my own life and writing.