…you will not find my actual life in these pages so much as my thoughts on the graces Our Lord has given me. I have reached the stage now where I can afford to look back; in the crucible of trials from within and without, my soul has been refined, and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm and see how the words of the Psalm have been fulfilled in my case: “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall want nothing…”
St Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul
My brother led me to prayer,
a child, afraid in the dark.
My sister taught me, downcast, to say, Why so downcast, O my soul?
My parents taught me to ask and search
yet not be controlled by the heart’s wild waves.
My teachers fed my questions
and books sustained my mind.
Lewis taught me magic
and Love deep, deep in time.
Robert Frost was early rhythm;
Eliot and Herbert came later on.
Auden taught me the happy eye,
the sober perspective on the folded lie,
Kierkegaard the lily’s glory
and the grace that strikes in anxious thought.
Bunyan and Luther and Thérèse
knew the scruples that strike, and the way –
the Little Way at Jesus’ feet –
so once again I’m led to pray.
My wife has taught me the open heart;
now my home and hearth expand.
O Love that finds me everywhere:
Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.
Once the marriage was destroyed* did the one
take comfort in the other’s halitosis?
And did the other, foul in breath, seek scum
to prove that folly persists in churches
and in the minds of worshippers? If words
are crude and language imprecise, then actions
like his speak loudest: a moral compass
cast aside with mathematical pride.
In this they agreed, though not on the sanctions:
that mankind was tending towards its own turd.
What then? Desecrate a marriage bed?
Render a language unreadable? Abide
in the peace of logic or of Logos?
Or turn to grace’s silent arms instead?
* Bertrand Russell was one of the most famous atheists of the 20th century and T.S. Eliot one of the century’s most famous converts. Russell contributed to the breakdown of Eliot’s marriage by having an affair with his wife.
…The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.
– T.S. Eliot, “Preludes”
I will be late for work:
the traffic tells me so,
and Adam's curse run deep in roads
too busy to know their name.
Beaten by roadside lies the debris
and dust of abandoned schedules: here
someone burst a tyre, there
a jerry-can was left, there some refuse
of a long-forgotten breakfast.
Why do wild flowers speak
in pitches more alive to me?
Pointed, they dance in the breeze:
small, white-purple flecks of something else,
another time, another Where.
Yet life is lived on roads,
and time is stretched in tyre-marks
to places where we'd rather be.
Wake up. Gratitude's an act of grace
and this day is thick with its potential.
Nothing's lived except when it harkens
to all that defies it,
and all that belies it.
If the day begins thus, then let it, and listen:
this is where you must now be.