Spring Cleaning

There are many lurkingplaces in the mind and many nooks… The old man is covered up in a thousand wrappings.
(Lancelot Andrewes, Preces Privatae)

Open the door. Let sun expose dust,
moth-eaten wool and mould around cornices.
Years of grime collect on window frames;
you forgot that the sideboard had an underneath.
And there too is the memory chest:
that also needs dusting;
and the bed of your childhood could use some air.

Let in September. True, comes in fits and starts;
opened windows welcome rain as easily as sun.
Yet nothing transfigures when the blinds are all shut
and nothing stifles dying like life.

Before we save the daylight

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Settle.
The city is quietly occupied, the day protected –
as though something must be done.
Watch a screen by all means,
but first gather friends,
and walk to the shops to lubricate the day.
Or hit the streets, if you choose –
to enjoy unexpected sunshine, and the hum,
like a ball hissing through the sky,
of a city in agreement.
Deeper meaning is lost, yet perhaps we still glimpse Sabbath:
a quiet acceptance that today we need not be boss.
Whatever sport we make, however we will spend
the lost hour of this night –
rejoice now in daylight,
in a moment which can neither be bought nor saved,
yet beckons the endless holiday,
the game that can only be won.

August

image

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

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Psalm: Lilies (The Cornucopia of Heaven)

Lilies and peonies by Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) Wikimedia Commons
Lilies and peonies by Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766)
Wikimedia Commons

After Antonio Vivaldi, “Le Quattro Stagioni – La Primavera: II. Largo”

 Creator God, whose praise and power are proclaimed by the whole creation: receive our morning prayers, we pray…

(A Prayer Book for Australia)

Consider         how the lilies open –

Watch them enter     into light…

Solomon

in all his        splendour

was not robed like these.

Consider,    also           fleeting sparrows:

not gathering,                  not  daring night.

Watch sparrows                    dance

across these flowers –

watch as dew           sings praise.

O sing, and be                        in quiet hours

witnesses       of lily-joy..

Consider how            the lilies       open –

watch, and praise Him

in light…

“August Sabbath”, and eight years of poetry

Eight years ago today, I began writing poetry. It was a beautiful spring day – the promise of things to come. But, as is so often the case at the end of a Melbourne winter, the spring was fragile. Cool weather could return at any moment and snap up the new growth. I was about to begin teaching and had recently emerged from a bad relationship; life was hopeful. Yet it seemed to me it could so easily fail. I turned to poetry to express this feeling and never looked back.

Today is another beautiful spring day. Life has brought more disappointment and more joy than I could have known. My hope is quieter, my heart more still and my poetry is – I hope – a bit better. But God is the same as He has always been.

August Sabbath

Hope settles as wind whistles in fresh leaves;
August grins in unexpected warmth, and though
Next week may bring cold worse than before,
New days are sure to prosper in His plan.
As we await the joys, the sun, the cold,
Hope settles and the wind whistles today.

Late Winter

I fought against the wind and, though I won,

It threw its debris all about the place,

Tossed hair asunder, tug-of-warred my face

And left me with a sense of being stung.

The wind did battle with the joys of sun,

Though still the early spring bore marks of grace

And, pulled this way and that, I caught the trace

Of hope which nonetheless had surely sprung.

While now I may be caught in gusts which fling

My fickle self wherever wind may blow

(And in my mind a battle may still fare

Though all the gales have settled), still I know

The smell of spring when it enters the air

And feel firm rock beneath in everything.

Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)

One of Auden’s more challenging but also most remarkable poems is “Under Sirius”, written as a response to medieval Latin poet Fortunatus who, by Auden’s account, longed for humanity to experience some sort of tragedy to shake them to their senses. Auden’s inspiration came from the time known as the “dog days”, associated with the star Sirius, in which long, languid and hot days seemed to Auden’s Fortunatus to be symptoms of the inner death of humanity. If you are living in Melbourne, you may be better able to relate to a season which can’t make up its mind, which shifts from spring to autumn to winter and back to spring again, all in the space of a few days. So I have used this Melburnian weather pattern as the starting point for my poem.

 

Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)
 
             Would your hope make sense

If today were that moment of silence,
Before it break and drown…?
(W.H. Auden, “Under Sirius”)

Now, of course, we wend our way through changing days:
The sun peers sometimes out of wind
And rain and autumn cling to spring’s façade.
Sun-bakers in Apollo-worship find
Their hopes flit and dance extempore around;
Listen, listen, the silent sound
Of spring weaves in with leaves falling,
Disappointment swept up in langour
And our summer dreams ever calling.

If this is that moment of silence, it hangs between
The dog star and our torpid sun:
A quiet emptiness, a vacuum, saying, revealing nothing.
Days pass and fade, not yet begun,
And, sagging into wounded land and sea,
The Fisher King bleeds his ancient reverie;
Thunder mutters petulant
And you, Fortunatus, shake your head
At clouds both wise and arrogant.

Indecision creeps to the table; the meal eats itself;
Still the family sings and curtains sway
Into the sun long, long ago set.
And should we forget, in our vaporous way,
Who we are and what we should be,
The seasons too may fail to see
That all things wend their changing course
Yet lead soon back to always-here.
Will you, then, be watching as
The truths behind the languor finally appear?

Your answer dangles limp in the clouds,
No reason for these rhyme-and-riddle seasons.
Never fear: should spring slip into winter now,
Nonetheless the sun commits no treason.
Our orbit weaves elliptical as it’s always done
And time will know for sure what we’ve become:
Children who forgot to thank the hands
That shaped our dust and gave it lips
And made our ever-circling souls to stand.