This we long for:
homes of flourishing,
hearts of abundance,
generous speech and thoughts and hands,
well-watered gardens and evening cool,
children like olive plants,
fruit in season and out,
and ever fruitful words and deeds,
no harvest passing empty,
no word bringing blight,
no failing crop or government,
no cry of distress in our streets,
and the will to will,
the longing to long,
the hope to hope,
the day to come.
The first thing I must own
is that there is no place
in a new heaven or a new earth
for the ancient dirt
that clogs my soul,
no place for the fetid fury
that clings to my speech,
nor for the old-as-Cain
hatred of brother
that kills me the moment
that it kills you.
I’m only going over Jordan,
I’m only going over home.
(“Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, trad.)
Truth be told, I hardly think of it,
the end of my roaming, except perhaps as sleep,
or when, longing for an end to all ending things,
I dream of new creations. Yet
the sum of my longing is not halfway close,
bound as I am by my weak desires,
and no more can I comprehend
what waits than a foetus knows what makes
such thrumming noise beyond the womb.
I only dip my feet in Jordan;
I must submerge myself and drift
away from all I think I know
to what I trust knows me.
You shall turn again to earth.
(Christina Rossetti, “For Advent”)
Before leaving for our new home, we take
the last year’s compost and distribute
rich, fermenting soil across our garden bed,
while lawn – parched from summer – longs weakly for green.
I too am parched and though
made of mud I cannot rest in dirt
until the heat is passed.
And so I long
for earth to reform, reconstitute
my barren bones and take dead seed
to make things new again.
Moving always, I crave endless home,
crave dwelling beneath Your rain.
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.
Climb the rugged beam to see
the scurry of life around the tree:
lion and baby, adder and lamb,
sheltered in this outstretched hand.
Thick with promise, the leaves gather birds
and the birds whisper secrets in long-forgotten words.
Turn your ear from self to sky
to hear the heavens in reply:
There’s hope for cut-down trees, the song
echoes in the on-and-on.
Lift your anxious stumpy fists
and open fingers out to grip
the hope that bursts, the life that beats.
Barren soul, the first fruit’s here.
A little child leads.
The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly.
Busy as themselves, they bustle
in explosion of hum and hive.
Contained, less fearsome, they pattern out their piece of wall
in splendour of black and Emperor’s yellow.
Intricate weaving, a tight-packed fabric of sweetness and protection,
this is nothing to startle at.
Yet children cannot play with them or with each other,
and deathly stings signal the sickness, not create it.
Until lion and lamb are united,
and babies can rest in the serpent’s nest,
until we have no fear of bees killing or dying,
until then we wait, and watch glory from afar.
Beauty still buzzes and demands our sight.