Indeed, my friends, let us not forget in our wakefulness…
(Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns of the Nativity)
Do I assume this peace?
Some peasants once, I am told,
when they had had enough of false liberty,
took cobblestones and made them missiles.
And men of another age were warned
that their panelled houses could fall,
while others, trusting horses,
were told whom they should fear.
For the quiet of now, give thanks.
The sun is your friend today and streets whistle with silent birdsong.
Later, I may collect chairs from the street or sit in a library to read.
But remember the shelves which Eratosthenes kept,
more famous for ruin than what they contained.
Look for the library without any walls;
look for the Word which shines like today.
Bend knees as you walk or stones will rise up.
Today’s beauty must make you bow.
Teacher, they say, grant us whatever we ask of you.
Assumptions rich in self, they see
a throne, and seats on either side;
surely theirs? For what other reason do they fight?
Yet His kingdom is not of this world;
its great ones do not presume, nor grasp.
Losing and finding self, they serve,
seeing the king Himself on His knees.
Here it begins: on knees;
and it ends here too, for humble delight
is eternal delight, having nothing to lose but the object of its joy.
So far to go, I cannot go further than this;
I kneel, confess, rip off my face.
If worship is bowing, then see, O my king,
this death of self now as my song.
What is the Lord’s Prayer?
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(New City Catechism)
Hands upraised, hands open
imploring yet worshipping
receiving yet giving
asking yet content
forgiven and forgiving
on earth, as it is in heaven;
daily caught in moments’ fear…
Our Father here and Heaven’s king:
teach us how to pray.
in the light
the light is blinding and
the days are long; the sun
confuses us, the bustle deafens.
let us walk.
Let’s leave our cars, our homes, our days
The Son has stories brighter than noon,
pavilions for the rising of the brightest morning,
and ways that feet must slow to learn.
Prepare your crowns, prepare
your heads to bow before
Prepare the day, to slow, to greet
bright as Day.
What does God require in the first, second
and third commandments?
First, that we know and trust God as the only
true and living God. Second, that we avoid all
idolatry and do not worship God improperly.
Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and
reverence, honoring also his Word and works.
(New City Catechism)
The Beginning of all things,
begin with Him:
know, trust, serve.
What breath have you
that did not pour forth from His mouth?
what life, what sight
that did not emanate from Him?
Is He contained within
the stars, the moon,
the patterns of the soil
that you may draw
a set of lines on a cave's wall and declare,
here He is! or carve
His likeness out of wood?
And what is His name
that you can barter,
beg, lie, steal
armed with it in your carry-bag,
a totem, a charm,
a licence to twist and turn His will
as though He were potters' clay.
You are the clay. Remember,
children of Adam,
the soil, the breath,
the hands that shaped and formed.
And bow; you are His likeness. Be
before Him as His image; bow
before Him and begin.
Time for my last poem for Peter Steele, this one based on his simple and delicate “An Ordinary Evening in Kew”. Less theological than the other poems I have chosen, this one is a wonderful tribute to the simple beauties of God’s gift of life.
Morning Song (After "An Ordinary Evening in Kew")
The Kensington street heats up for public holiday and I
Race the heat down hills, past flats and parklands, through
The lessening leaves that lined last week’s pavement.
Autumn yawns as summer dawns again, and slow the street
Awakes to greet the gift of sunrise without work.
In my ears the swoop of violins, and heartbeat
Growing with each downwards leap. My shins, uncertain,
Hold together for the plummet, though this is rest
Nonetheless: bodies, finite, all the same can sing
And defy the grave, though ever moving to it.
Birds’ music, poetry in movement: common grace
A sign that more than this may soon be allowed.
Welcome, street, and gambol now beside me,
Gravity negating, the dance a dreaming joy.
An Ordinary Evening in Kew - Peter Steele
On the one hand, Dante, and in the other pocket
The man who took his mind and left New Haven
For parts unknown. What were they up to,
The stoutly suited broker of our fortunes,
The burning Florentine? Watching the rain
Descend as if it chose to, giving vent
To laws at once of gravity and mercy,
I'm brought to book by earth's imagination,
The bearing of the trees, exfoliation
Of these most rambling streets, the rise of lights
Captive upon their poles and in my eyes.
Come in, you two: see if you'll make a lodging
An hour at least with the rest who wait inside,
Heads full of dreaming, bodies compelled by time.
(From Peter Steele, White Knight With Beebox: New and Selected Poems,
John Leonard Press, 2008)