Changeless

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours

of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and

chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect for Compline, The Book of Common Prayer
Full of contradiction, I am buoyed
by the blossom of change in the trees yet
wearied
by the clock's relentless chime.
Burdened by the weight of change
and the wait for change alike, I am
entangled in the too much too little of days and months.
No clock marks His coming hour,
nor days mar His face.
O beauty ancient and new:
blossom me eternal in You.

Extraordinary Time

Deprived of the ordinary markings of days -
drives to work, birthdays, people to celebrate -
we cling
more fervently to organic signs,
the constant shifts in the garden,
which trees have blossomed,
which ones have leaves,
how tall the pea plant has grown,
how white its petals.

These and the aphids signal time:
those and the snails migrating,
the worms beneath the compost,
the dead bird by the granny flat,
rising and falling daily tallies,
who died youngest, who's all clear
and how long until - we cannot say -
only greet other pilgrims on the way, and pray.

Toddler-speed

Only when we are going somewhere does he dawdle,
suddenly eager to investigate every fencepost,
every garden paver.
When we’ve all the world’s time, he hurries,
as though life might catch him before he is done,
as one learns to do when small
and only grown-ups can open doors for you,
where moments must be seized
before a “No, Eli!” takes them away.

But when on a journey, each surface and texture needs study,
each streetlight’s a marvel,
and each fence might contain a “Woof Woof” to call friend.
No hurry then, no trajectory,
only the entranced study
of a miniature scientist at his craft.

And so I, clock always in mind, must submit
to this other time. The urge to say,
“Come on, Eli,” must be tempered
by the truth
that his toddler-speed shows me:
that all this is wonder, and world enough
and time
are in our Father’s hands who holds
our fingertips and says, “Come on,”
not for haste
but so we may take it all in.
Slowing down, I take more in.

Glenroy Lent: Long Shrift

Suburb has its own time.
Nestled just beneath city’s scheduled view, it sits
when city runs. It holds
deep memories and secrets, left
in garages, holds hopes
in council offices. Roadwork
punctuates the day’s first lines.
Promises in orange signs declare:
something soon is happening. Prepare.

You may have left your lunch behind, may have left
the drive too little space to breathe.
Watch out for traffic. Slow the start
in day’s suburban street.
Slow the beat of self-knowledge,
slow the heart to blink awake.

20 Contemplations #9: Logos

image
Marc Chagall, "Clock and Blue Wings"

“…before Abraham was, I am.”
(John 8:58)

Eternity enters the human timeframe.
Before movement had matter, He was:
No beginning or conclusion; the same
Yesterday, today, before all days.
Even the hands of clocks he moves, sustains;
And now He enters: the watchmaker within
The mechanism; the infinite contained.
Time baffles at the sight; where do we begin
To grasp what does not begin? Yet He brings
Himself to us, to see, be seen. In one
Instant, this entropic way of things
Is opened by the entrance of the Son.
And now, contained inside a human womb,
The endless one irradiates Time’s tomb…

No turning

I dreamt a ferryboat dream where,
crossing some unknown stretch of deep,
we struck another time and you
were lost into the depths of There,
and, Orpheus, I wandered far
where loss and past commingled in
faint glimpses of your head – behind
only, never quite your face.
And when re-united, by those turns
that dreams sometimes have when full known,
I wondered where within the tale
we stood – if I had turned behind
and lost you, only now to have
you back again, in some sweet form
of ancient woe retold with joy,
or if the worst was yet to be.
All dreams will pass, and I awoke,
the ferry gone, and all of our
dark passings-by now still.
And in the stasis of the night,
I looked up to the ceiling, through
the roof, to stars – white-bright, though dead –
and still were all night’s ferryboats;
no shadow turned, or clung onto
the glimpse of dreams to be.

Northbound at dusk

Jeffrey Smart painted this dying day:
burnt orange in floating smokestack steam,
needle-lights stretching in fluorescent dream,
the sojourn of light sinking in silent sway.
Daytime paints its canopy away
and minutes pass in inches as we glean
each moment, weigh each instant gram by gram.
Apologies buy flowers; much to say,
yet time is rare. I wish that now could be
a canvas on a wall that we could share.
I cross the bridge; I mount the street of bells.
Ascend, descend; the sound within us swells,
and expectation greets the seated air.
No movement; move. I gather you to me.

image

The Lesson (After W.H. Auden’s “But I Can’t”)

One of W.H. Auden’s greatest gifts as a poet was his versatility, being one of the major figures in the 20th century for resurrecting a wide range of traditional poetic forms. He was as comfortable with free verse as he was with long-forgotten French forms. His masterly villanelle, “But I Can’t” – an achingly simple meditation on time – is a perfect example of this. The villanelle is one of my favourite of the traditional forms, so I had fun working with this form for my response to Auden’s poem. One of the advantages of the villanelle is that the repeating refrains allow for more to be said through the form than the words themselves convey. I hope you enjoy both Auden’s use of the form and my response.

The Lesson (After W.H. Auden’s “But I Can’t”)

It doesn't pay to look too deep
If our lives will go on in their contented way;
We must learn just to breathe and sleep.

The questions that in silence creep
And nag at our minds: cast them away.
It doesn't pay to look too deep.

Graze in fields, content like sheep,
Wander, wonder, drift and stray:
We must learn just to breathe and sleep.

Time may show up the truths we keep
And make our lies as plain as day;
It doesn't pay to look too deep.

For time will run and time will leap;
What time will show, I dare not say.
We must learn just to breathe and sleep.

The answer's vague and guessing's cheap.
(If desperate, we can always pray.)
It doesn't pay to look too deep;
We must learn just to breathe and sleep.