The Patience of Bread

To the toddler eye, yeast bubbles for pure delight
and the lump of dough is to be savoured now.
Try as I might, I cannot explain
why that treasure must go to wait in the sun,
why the instant must make way for the delayed.

I too cannot understand
kingdom yeast's delay in them, in me,
cannot let go of moment's feast
without the smarting of loss, although I know bread
and how it emerges, transfigured,
a wonder of bubbling life.

Valedictions

Once the new year came
in a traffic jam, at Borneo's mouth,
when the crowds who'd fled early to escape the rush
now bid each other a happy one
between their cars across the street.

Another time it came while I
and a friend were lost in the midst of things,
driving from one house to another where
the champagne was chilled
and the view guaranteed.
Instead we drove
through a ditch and came
out at a set of lights where the lights
skipped across the shop rooftops.

Now I try convincing my
three boys that there's no party on,
while they fight through bedtime, crazed
from a day of irregular food and cars.
And where many can't wait to see it go
and say good riddance to the year that's been,
I suspect I'll say good night and catch
the fireworks from my sleep.

But after years and years and years
of deserts, each new year the same,
fighting to smile while others raved,
to see the evening slip to sleep
while my children slowly do the same,
I cannot say good riddance, only,
Thank You, thank You Lord.

Unbound

My twins' favourite game
is to grab a Bible each and run
delighted round the room shouting,
"Bible! Bible!" as though
treasure has been found.
Their Bibles are ragged and worn from rough handling;
binding broken, the Word opens up,
unbound, into the mess of life.

Acedia

“… how we perform these often dispiriting duties, from the changing of a baby’s diaper to the bathing of an aged parent, reveals what kind of God we worship.”

Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me
Weary, yet itching for greater things,
Longing to change the world while
my own heart lies stony and stagnant,

I turn
from the trifles of significance and
grand Calls to the small,
the smallest of things, and seek

as I sweep scattered breakfast,
wipe porridge from grabby fingers,
to loose
my fingers from my own feeble Self

and mop
away the dregs of my torpid ego
and make a hole fit
for footwashing Christ
to call home.

Advent 21: Neither slumber nor sleep

In a creaking house for family feasting, I sat
as summer light streamed through leadlight doors and
cracks in curtains,
fairy lights twinkling on pine tree while
I rocked my youngest, disrupted by
the change of place, his older
brother’s noise and the stubborn light,
and tried to make a darkness conducive
to an eight-month child’s much-needed sleep,
and fancied the Father
keeping vigil by my fretful side
neither slumbering nor sleeping
until true day arrives.

Advent 1: Pine

Early evening, cool of day, we walk
in the garden to find
evergreen branches to weave a wreath of hope.
My son is distracted. Not tall enough to reach with me,
he stands to watch but soon
decides instead to help
pile the compost heap with grass.

Evergreen and humus: these symbols arrest
as I finish my gathering and crush
fallen leaves to settle the soil
where it sits and brews in ever-cycling growth.
The constant, the growing, the long slow wait of growth
all have their moment in our pining Advent days.

Daily Reset

“…dirt [is] matter out of place.”
(Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger)

When the day’s settling is done, I seek
order in domestic chaos, restoring
categories I never previously held:
that these trains belong together and those
trucks do not; while this bus driver
does not fit that car, nor
does that book belong in
the middle of a gleeful floor.
But what to do
when categories are stretched beyond
rational recognition? For instance, what
to do with an unaccompanied sock
keeping company with a lone building block?
And the day must leave unsolved the mysteries
of where the baby monitor went or why
those DVDs are now room-mates with a train.
I calm the room like the baby who wakes
as the last Lego block is returned to its place,
while the unsorted debris of my own fractured day
must sit in its chaos, held in unuttered prayer.

This Mess

I stubbed my toe on a London bus;
it stood in the doorway, just under us.

And by the door a bright Tonka truck
lay just where an unsuspecting limb got stuck.

And in the night a train might stray
far from its tracks into my way;

and you, dear you, might show up right
when I would rather turn in for the night

yet love is seldom a smooth affair,
and ground is better than ideal air.

True, I’d prefer to not stub my toes,
but love must bleed; that’s the way it goes.