Thursday, 5 September 2019

A Poem: Work-Life Balance

It’s astonishing how the image 
Of a few balanced stones
Has come to be our icon
Of tranquillity, serenity, calm.

It sells us expensive spa days,
Sweet-smelling oils,
Pedicures, purifying rituals, peace.

You try balancing four stones. Go on.

You’ll get there, eventually.

And as your hand flutters
Over leaving the final adjustment just so –
Someone will glance by, admiringly, and say
‘I don’t know how you do it!’

And your hand arrests them from coming nearer,
As you watch the entire edifice tremble
At their footsteps,
At your breath.

The Zen of this moment
Isn’t the calm serenity of the advertisements -
A holding of all things in cosmic balance,
A resting place of quiet calm.

No; it’s in your hovering awareness
Of the inherent instability of the system –
It’s entropy -

It's in accepting the uncertainty of not knowing when

The certainty of the fall will come.

Sunday, 18 August 2019


When the shit hits the fan,
When the bullshit bingo is over,
When you can only smell steaming piles of horseshit,

Wheel a barrow into the meeting room.

Shovel up the crap for the compost heap.
Mix it with all the other odds and sods of daily detritus -
Carrot peelings, pea pods, rotten bits, slime -
Add the bulky bore of routine maintenance -
Grass cuttings, loo roll inners, shredded statements.

Trust the alchemy of the soil
And the worms’ patient processing
To turn it into rich black honeycomb
Smelling of promise and roses and tomatoes.

When the shit hits the fan
Try to think of it
As muckspreading.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Poem: Meditation on Psalm 131

The second in a series of poems that I wrote whilst on retreat, undertaking the first stage of the Spiritual Exercises, at St Beuno's earlier this month. I shared this poem at St Bride's this morning:

Meditation on Psalm 131

‘Like a weaned child at her mother’s breast’ –
I sigh into you in contentment.
Not with the rooting hunger
Of breastfeeding, that single-minded devotion
That knows only need and turns blindly for its source –
That’s had its time, and will no doubt have its time again.

But now is for enjoying the stillness
Of knowing myself to be held;
Choosing, in simple desire,
To clamber onto your lap,
Lay my head against your shoulder,
And feel your cheek, your arms, your body
Envelop me – above, around, beneath.

Now is for relaxing into one another,
Both accepting, both offering,
This gift of presence.

Now is the time to feel my breathing slow
In time with yours;
To know that this is the Alpha and the Omega,
The beginning and the end.
This is the place I belong, the place
I have been longing for.
From here I will go out, in time,
And to here I will return.

My only prayer is an almost wordless yearning
That nothing may tempt me to forget,
To diminish this, from a distance, as a childish indulgence,
A mawkish fantasy,
That’s all very well, but has no place in the real world.

I want more than anything to always know,
In the very depths of my bones, as I know now,
That this is more real than any of the fantasies
On which I have constructed my life.

This is humility;
Not a performative fawning,
But this raw acceptance of my want of you.

This is not an intellectual proposition,
Or an argument to be won.
It is humiliating to discover,
After all my research and questioning,
After all my jealous frustration
At my inability to frame you in words,
That it comes down only to this –

My need, and my simple acceptance of my need,
To rest in your embrace.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

A Poem: Verum Corpus

There is no greater awkward joy
Than to celebrate communion one-handed,
Clasping a child in your other arm.

Feeling its small, warm body
Conform itself to your curves; feeling yourself
Move that one side of your body
Into the universal jig that all flesh
Doesn’t know it knows 
Until a baby is put into its arms.

One hand splayed against the soft heaviness of head and neck,
The other outstretched in prayer -
You make God real 
in flesh and blood, 
bread and wine -

Tangible, fragile, consumable.

(One small corner of your mind concerned to do this with all possible dignity
To placate those who may feel the baby detracts
From the seriousness of the occasion –
Another, wondering if dry-cleaning would remove
Baby sick from the shoulder of the antique chasuble,
Should need arise)

In that moment, you are both the baby and God.

Feeling all God’s fierce and tender protectiveness
As these tiny, fragile things are held in your hands –

Feeling all the infant’s fierce and needy grasping
To be held, protected, loved.

Clasping a miniature fistful of chasuble
Against being dropped.
Offering a mere handful of bread,
Against being alone.

Afterwards, I know, I will hear
Both complaints and sentimentality.

But this moment is neither sentimental nor profane.

If I had a spare hand, I would take off my shoes.
For here God is speaking ‘I AM’ into my very body.