20 Contemplations #10: Joy

Anselm Kiefer, "Resumptio"

Delight the Spirit feels in constant burst:
Delight in Three, delight in all that’s good.
And as the Son descends, is born, is God,
Delight the Spirit feels at last, at first.
Joy of Spirit fractures Earth’s rehearsed
Ways of being happy. Earth gives a nod
To God, then walks the path that Adam trod.
Spirit breaks the world’s disguising curse:
Where fair is foul and foul is fair, it sounds
Like clanging noise, but hear the rhythmic joy
That dances in between the plaintive theme.
The theme of joy is shrouded, yet abounds;
It sleeps within the heart of infant boy
And whispers in the truest child dreams.

No Waste


Flights delay; schedules must be rearranged.
Pause in the park; there is nothing else nearby;
though sickness and tiredness lag our legs
and this message must be read, that query returned.
All the dead time of the week, all these fragmented moments –
purpose evades when we have no control.
Yet moments ripple when we detour through trees
to watch Creator’s joy in the brilliant green
of a duck’s hidden wing.



I gather moments like raindrops,
         like snowdrops:
these microscopic buds of spring
         tricked by sun
     to come out, one     by one;
  I see
how hesitant can be
              can be
     the grandest glimpse of things
               and sing.

I catch the way your moments dance
         from distance –
yet close enough to ring
         the shadows into song
       in soft, legato days  of praise.
   I find
how hopefully we hold
               and hold
      in tentative expectancy
                  to see.

You hold our hope in moments of joy,
What we do not expect
          grips tight. I neglect
       too soon what we know.    Let go
     of fears
that pass. Joy is forever,
       the things that stir our hearts in song.
               Not long.


Lent: The Wait, the Weight 2

How long? How long? I drag my voice.
I cling, I waiver, I thirst, I desire –
My spirit shall rejoice.

In silence, in hum of background noise,
I stretch my neck from familiar mire –
How long? How long? I unravel voice.

The wait, the weight of hidden joys,
When all my sky clouds round and gyres –
My spirit shall rejoice.

Expectancy grows numb. Life silences choice.
Better to shake, better to blaze on fire.
How long? How long? I unfurl my voice.

Complacency leadens; I wave but cannot hoist.
Yet what is lost? the dove’s coo enquires.
Can the spirit still rejoice?

The soul’s pivot; heaviness gathers poise.
Let anchored hope never expire.
How long? How long? Lift high your voice.
My spirit, my spirit shall rejoice.

Lent: Man of Sorrows 3

Obedience is a crown of thorns.
The earth’s the Lord’s;
He does as He pleases,
and it pleases Him to wear these thorns.

Joy set before Him, He endures;
joy not instantaneous, I yield.
Obedience is a crown of thorns,
and I despise this crown.

Go into the wilderness; see
all earth’s kingdoms laid at your feet.
The dilemma lies: your feet will crumble beneath the burden;
the true crown comes with thorns.

God does as He pleases and
it pleases Him to wear this crown.
Joy set before Him, He obeys;
the meek will take the earth.

Learning Bach


Moments of success are rare:
arpeggio-dances, impossible harmonies,
the sound as simple as the wind
yet execution like a fear -
fingers always forgetting how,
only ever stumbling on
success. Evasive moments of
perfect beauty capture souls
yet pass with sudden fumbles and
flustering confusion when
the movement of the hands cannot
so perfectly attune the spheres
as in the neat, transcribed intent.
Still, when all's aligned,
however brief, the sound
sings and motions, like
silence, like heart,
mouth, deed and life in tune,
the dance exact.
The joy remains.

With reverent fear

In this you greatly rejoice, though for now
Your life flits by, empty at times, sometimes glad.
And in these days, though you furrow your brow,
The breeze on your face can still lift up the sad,
And music is sweet, and the grace that is seen
Falls likewise on righteous, unrighteous,
Both blesses the generous, blesses the mean,
Gives food and gives sun to shine on us.
Despise not the day of the tenderest things:
In each blessing, rejoice; each joy, savour.
Yet know that one day, when the Son of Dawn sings,
All your earthly joys then will be vapour.
So live out your days now in reverent fear,
Rejoicing in Him till the new day appear.

Even So, Even So (After Denise Levertov’s “Suspended”)

When I first read Denise Levertov’s “Suspended”, it amazed me with the perfect way it blended the starkness of life with the delicate beauty of grace. You can read her poem here, in a wonderful post from CPX of their favourite religious poems, and here is my own response to Levertov.

Even So, Even So (After “Suspended”)

No sense can receive the sense
Of what it is that catches me;
You sing of joy, joy, in your heart
And I, sometimes, can know that joy, and yet
It is not clapping which sustains.
Hands that have no atoms hold me;
Even so, even so, in their infinite, silent substance they
Keep my frail floating self from
All these chasms that it seeks.

The Heavenly Life (For Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Bishop and Missionary)

On the night Saint Aidan died,
You dreamt you saw his floating soul
Carried as he left this earth;
And so you saw the mantel fall
From Aidan onto your small shoulders,
Saw the see that you would take,
Lindisfarne, your home.

They say you wandered through the hills
The warmth within your strong glance drawing
Sin out from its hole.
And somehow you kept your feet
Firmly planted in this soil
Yet your eyes drew always up
To heaven and its joys.

Cuthbert, we are lost at sea.
Our sin lurks in the shadows where
It seldom is revealed.
Yet across the mountains we
Can see bright heaven’s call.
May we walk out as you walked
And find its heights of joy.