LIFE CHOICES


LIFE CHOICES


Life
Made a home
In a handful of dust
Set in resistant ground
  
Would the dry land
Withhold consent 
A host rejecting
This foreign body?

The teenage fiancée
Between fear and trust 
Said, Let it be
Knowing parched roots
Were in need
Of the Life she would carry 
Beyond borders

So Life learned to walk 
In the valley 
where 
New beginnings so often
Turn to old ends 
And received wisdom 
Gets it wrong, again

Where
Amnesiac cycles
Reheat history 
In shiny new bowls 
And fresh taste 
So often dries stale 
On the tongue 

Life came to 
The crossroads where
Beauty and horror meet
Poured itself out
Disrupting hard soil 
with renewal
While the earth 
Quietly spun 

Life perseveres 
Calls as we pause
Between fear and trust
Exclusion and welcome
Commands our dry bones
To get up and walk
And carry the life
That enables green shoots
To invade concrete yards

THE BIRD THAT FINALLY LOST IT


THE BIRD THAT FINALLY LOST IT


I am the songbird that swears.

No tamed caged fowl, me
With garish green wings
No sir ! I rattle those bars
And I mean to soar
Over tower blocks out
To the cliffs and the sea

But my once subtle voice 
Only croaks
In my throat
The vinyl is scratched
And I start to resemble 
A budgie repeating 
The well-worn refrains
That limit its days

I am the songbird that swears

My wings have been pinned
To my sides for too long
With knotted brown string
Parcelled tangled and ravelled
Through months and a year
Because of a bat 
That made the world kneel

Now my wings have been clipped
And there’s so much ‘perhaps’
That I’ve lost 
The will to fly
Send me a dove
To restore my voice
And carry me far on the wind



TRANSPARENT


TRANSPARENT


Over the years
Our bright acrylic traits 
Slide, dissolve
Pale into watercolour
Undefined edges
Fine lines
Soft colours
That fail 
To arrest

Walked past
In crowded rooms
Looked through
At parties
And in church

Should I 
Shave my scalp?
Daub it in woad?
Carry a rose
Between my teeth?
Tear my shirt 
To show a rebel heart
Still shouts 
Beneath the brittle skin?

Or is there an upside
To this gradual becoming 
Transparent?

As the grain of the paper 
Blue-veined 
That carries us 
Starts to show through

Freed
From the need
To airbrush perfection 
Layer the gloss
On the uneven
Rough weave of 
Fibre and splinters
A life lived holds

As our fading 
Draws a bridge
To an open space
Beyond immediacy 

CONNECTION IN A DUTCH JUNGLE

Artists gathering in Dordrecht summer 2021


CONNECTION IN A DUTCH JUNGLE


A wild bouquet 
The exotic and the plain
Loosely grouped 
Watered and refreshed
In a huge glass jar
Catching the light

Timeless words cascade 
Leather-bound
On shelves as we dine
Join the stream of conversation 
Human and divine
Over flatbread and wine 

Unassuming church bells
Skip tones on the water 
Melt in the air
As bridges rise 
Releasing boats to the sea
We sit, tasting time together

How we have missed all of this

In our Sunday glass house 
Stones are not thrown
Cloudy panes are transparent 
The wilderness looks in
As we see out
Dialogue flows back and forth
Through permeable walls 

A chandelier mirrors our faces
Algae and dirt 
Silver paths traced to the sky
A yellow-toothed piano 
Sits retired in the corner 
Slugs doze on the floor
Rainfall rhythms our song

The flowers and branches
We bring to the table
Leave shadow and light on blue cloth
The natural beauty
Of dust and of glory
Within one another 
Laid bare 

How we have missed all of this

PENTECÔTE


PENTECÔTE


Tu as brisé le silence 
Par la bouche de gens 
Peu fréquentables, de langue barbare
Que nous ne cernons pas
Or, on finit par comprendre
Qu’il faut larguer
Le Dieu qu’on s’est formé
Enfermé par nos mots. 
Alors même
Que l’on entrevoit l’éternité
On comprend 
L’autre, et ce qui l’anime

Oserons-nous abandonner
Nos jeux de pouvoir, nos calculs 
Le chiffrage de nos comptes à rendre
Pointés par nos doigt accusateurs ?
Il nous faudra ouvrir le poing
Lâcher nos acquis.

Tu danses avec le vent
Embrases la surface de nos eaux bien tranquilles 
Pénètres les fissures
De nos incohérences
Fais ressurgir
Le laid, le beau
Pour les placer sous les projecteurs 
De l’amour
Tu portes nos soupirs dans ton souffle
Recouvres nos épaules 
D’un manteau de consolation
Et nous mets en marche

PENTECOST


You broke silence to speak 
Through people
From the wrong side of the tracks
Using foreign words we can’t make out
And we somehow apprehend 
That we must quit
The God in our head 
Wrapped in talk
And as we glimpse eternity
We understand 
Where these ‘others’ are coming from

Dare we drop our power-games
Our settling of accounts
Sizing up and finger-pointing
Spreadsheets of checks and balances
Release our grasp on what we have attained?

You dance on the back of the wind
Set fire to our too-calm waters
Plunge into the fissures
Of our inconsistencies
Dredge up the ugly and the beautiful
To place them under
The searchlight 
Of love
Carry our sighs on your breath
Cover us in your coat of consolation
Set us on our feet again

HOLINESS


HOLINESS


Today this is
A barbed and wounding word
Seated angular and cold
On a shelf way out of reach
However tall the ladder

A comparative word 
Commanding from the heights 
With lists that rule out hope or desire
But that we still conspire to use
Against each other

We brush dirt from our shoulder
Onto the next soul’s arm		
Knowing that we cannot rise
Beyond our definitions
We sit within them

Who will convert this word of ours 
Restore its heart?		
Turn it around, burnish its corners
Until it finds itself again?

The thing of beauty
That bends to mend wounds
Irrigate dry bones 
Blow the dust
From inner houses
And sanctimony
From our souls

LOCKDOWN WINDOW-BOX

Started in the autumn, tweaked in the spring...


LOCKDOWN WINDOW-BOX


Leaves with brown paper veins 
Have succumbed to dry earth 
And the neglect of the sad
For months touched only 
By the movement of dust 
In the rays of an improbable sun

Hope hung heavy
When the world closed down
And the few who were out 
Never looked up
Fear having no time 
For flowers

People drift past again
Eyes fixed on feet
Lest they fall through the cracks
In the ground
Towards the unknown
No star but the present
To guide them

Heather and ferns
Persistent in growth
That thrive on the hills when alone 
And unwatched in the cold
Will sit out these times 
Unconcerned by neglect
Self-contained and serene
As the earth turns
And renews

NEGATIVE SPACE


NEGATIVE SPACE


Roadworks and the anxious
Shout of inner voices
Fills all headroom
With concrete 

Absence of noise 
Dissolves the mortar
Pours back the oxygen
Of liquid air 

Thank God
For the negative space
Where thought
Can be born again

The void between
Elbow and torso sculpting the body
The musical rest bearing sound
On its breath

When the pause lasts

Too long

We fidget in fear, yearn for the note 
That signals the next act

Can the negative space
Of a barren confinement
With no end in view
Give us wings?