We cut banana leaf from our backyard and dress
the table with these fronds for a king.
Day is overcast; spirit drizzles with
the quiet acedia of another quarantined day.
No procession today, on this or any street;
only hearts can fling wide their gates.
Yet heart has always been best, been the most
fitting place to worship this king,
temples prone to moneychangers,
guards of honour prone to deceit.
If heart must change, whatever the location,
let us begin with hearts only;
all else is stripped away.
The serpent bites deep;
venom lurks where least expected.
The heart has chasms, labyrinths, unknown even to itself.
What way out have we but to weep?
Deceitful beyond all things,
the heart’s lie is more twisted than you ever thought.
Good intentions pave Destruction’s road;
who will rid me of this body of death?
Follow the trail of tears;
enter the wilderness where, sweating blood, He kneels.
Kneel too beside Him, where spirit wills but flesh resists.
Word-made-flesh, His flesh transfigures humbled dust.
Well, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Whoever St Valentine was or was not, his feast day has come to be associated with romantic nights out and Hallmark cards. It isn’t the best expression of love that we have, but it’s still a day when our culture focuses quite publicly on a very specific kind of love, and so it seems worth engaging with.
Over the last few months, I’ve been working on a series of poems dealing with the tensions of what it means to love – both romantically and towards our neighbours. These poems have been prompted by Kierkegaard’s weighty but inspiring “Works of Love”: not the standard text to invoke on Valentine’s Day, but Kierkegaard’s view – and indeed the Bible’s – might serve as a helpful antidote to the Hallmark view of love. I hope these poems can find a welcome home in your hearts this February.