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I have just posted a few poems I wrote in reflection of some difficult experiences I had working with a homeless persons ministry. I recently submitted these for creative submissions in a creative writing course I am doing. Enjoy.

 

They gather and protect me

like I am their prize.

They have problematic lives,

and I am a

problematic friend.

A network which meets by stolen smartphones

and free wifi

and facebook groups.

A cup of tea seems nothing in an ageing, dying world.

 

If you let me explain to you all the ways that I am problematic, if you just understood all the evil, most awful parts of me, you would know and laugh and mistrust. You just won’t listen. I am noise to you, in the seas of your own catastrophes. I have swallowed you, and you wail in the dark, lamp in hand, because I have judged you.

 

You tell me about things that make me sad,

how you know who will win in your tipping contests

and how you frequent the bars that open till late

and start the earliest,

things that make me cry for you

Because I want more for you

not more of what I have, please, I am broken myself.

But more of the way light cracks in,

more of the way the amazing grace

how sweet the sound

saves us.

I have no qualms about telling you you are outstanding,

because I see it more than the cubists see shape and size

beneath your fingers

on your rubix cube.

Your thanks is more sweet to me than I am to you.

But thank you for protecting me.

Every time I see her

I feel sick.

I can see her neglect,

she reminds me of

an apple core

a chicken bone,

she has nowhere to be.

We talk about her life in the private girls school.

How she wore hats and gloves

and snuck into the men’s room for cigarettes.

She lobbies for justice

now limp in her sense of unrest

because she is tired and old and schizophrenic.

She makes me scared

that life would be her compost

and she clings to its decay,

but I see so much more for her.

I don’t mind that she won’t brush her teeth,

I would wash her, I would etch the clay from her feet

and the dust from her eyes

and the ink from her wrists

with muslin and betadine if she let me.

But her necklace falls heavy on her chest,

she confesses her sins

and wants her own justice.

She hates herself more than I could love her.

She quickly loses hold of our mutual friend

our institutional connections

and wonders who I am

and why I have offered her a biscuit.

The man at Redfern

Heavy-browed –

he wears a rolled frown

on cracked lips,

a thoughtful kiss to his

paper-thin

coffee kin.

It balances on his knee,

he circles it with his bony

finger and plays it like a

singing bowl,

tapping himself

and smiling about

the sandy sound he notices

about his worked, thinned paper-

coffee cup.

 

The wind blows rooms in his poncho,

lifting him.

Blue cellophane

dressing him

head to toe.

Rain dripping on cheeks,

on curled lashes,

his back bowed

on a stack

of old volumes of magazines.

 

Everyday I find him, sitting by the station, tracing the road. He takes a spot in front of the steel beams. The air is damp with car fumes, his eyes are glassy. Pollution polishes his bare feet. His dark heels tap in a muse of sounds. He is full and vibrant, drinking the city. He winks at me.

 

The rains polish the

coins that roll

in his coffee cup

of silvers,

of cig’rettes.

Chimes, he smiles

at every chime,

at every person behind the chime,

chim’ng to themselves.

He sings a low bluesy hum.

 

I cry. I run,

my mind runs quicker than I do.

I graze my knees

to find his eyes,

mine hollow

his full.

 

I want to say something meaningful, but all I can think to do is tread the well-trod soil of our distance and our difference; the weather, the day, the rush, the injustices, maybe the politics, which he leads. I don’t say anything meaningful at all. Forget all this, I want him to know I know him. I anticipate seeing him everyday, enough to make me sick with worry. I keep gold in my purse to appease it, to relieve him of some important burden, but I can’t know what to say.

 

Petrol soaks into

the pores of his floor.

Petrol-soaked thoughts

and things of the city

burden his mind

nothing

but mine full.

I walk through Redfern, where

trees brow the city

like elderly friends.

I have my thoughts,

my procession of thoughts

reverberating my mind.

 

I always worry about where he is. All the time, I worry that I won’t see him. Does he think I think too much? I am so relieved when I see him, I catch my breath, I hope he doesn’t know. I hope I hide myself. I hope

I’m so unassuming that he is not embarrassed. I hope he doesn’t remember that I remember. I can tell he wants to wipe my worries from my forehead, smear it all off like whiteboard markings.

 

Blue dust on my face,

I dress myself in beads.

I am can’t but be honest,

I twist my rings

around my fing’rs and

scream

that I am anxious.

I know it all the time.

He dresses himself

with my beads

with strings of rings

he ties to his waste,

he strings them up,

he dances,

I laugh

it

all

out.

white

offensive

light

breaking into my mind.

I crackle and burst –

I am a lamp.

 

I like this man. He has something for me. He unbends himself, his creaky, ageing body, and crouches to lift his crate. A present, wrapped in his thin poncho and string. Presents. I imagine what it is. A purple robe, a string of beads; I try them on, I twirl for him. He knows me. I have a stack of magazines, he has for me everything we have ever known.

 

I offer him coffee

Everyday I do,

Everyday he says no.

I dream it all out. How awful it is.

He doesn’t know how worried I am. How troubled I am by him.

 

It rains and I don’t see him for a while. My umbrella breaks. It’s windy and wet. I am worried.

I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Revelations 2:17

There once was a Prince with a bruised head, and a gypsy fell in love with this Prince. A valiant Prince of Christ, kind, strong, unreasonably compassionate, she recognised quickly his deeply noble blood. But his head was sore, it throbbed under his crown and he was confused, confused by it, confused by the fact that he did not know he wore it. This gypsy kept pointing it out, she kept referring to it. But he was perplexed, he shook off compliments, he counted it as poetry until he lifted his hands to worship God and grazed his wrists on his crown. He realised quickly what she had been saying. He fell to his knees, he worshipped God and he loved his King royally in all of his day.

He was so kind to this gypsy. He was grateful for what she noticed about him. Does he owe her anything? Since she noticed his crown must he owe her something? She was unsettled by this thought, she thought too highly of him and wanted him to rule, not to marry a gypsy. By chance she spoke up. Anyone might have spoken up. She did not want to hoax him into an exchange. She did not want him to owe her anything. Yet curiously, he fell in love with this gypsy anyway. He did not owe her anything. And when she brushed past him and willed to hold his hand when she worshiped God, he swept up her heshen and noticed her beautiful high heeled shoes. Her feet, aching and sore, it all made sense to her when she lifted her hem and saw her shoes. She too was of royal blood.
Would they ever have known if not for their chance meetings, in not for their small acts of courage to speak? What they attempted with epithets and gentle affections was knowing one another by names they didn’t yet know. Sure they might have found out somewhere along their way. Someone else could have told them. They could have found out by chance. They could have realised themselves one day. He always felt a little tall. She always felt a little dazzling. But this kingdom event made itself a fragrant offering when they invited one another into their moments of worship to Christ. They loved the very heart of God and loved him royally.
You think surely they knew? Surely she knew she was more than a marred face and lighter burns, and he more than a wounded heart and poisoned kindness. But lies riddled their hearts as they do for all of us. We must earnestly remind one another that we are more than what we are now. We are not what we will one day be.
Our names are on stones, and we will one day see.
Encouragement passed through their lips constantly, without even thinking. They knew they were both to serve and delight in God all the days of their life and loved each other for it. However they might keep knowing one another, whatever this might be, however short or long, however temporal, however fixed and determined, was not yet known to them, strings of anxiety have been cut, the oceans are cool. God is smiling.

a war was waged

Romans 8

For I am convinced…

I vividly remember that day. I was sitting in my car when I muttered these words: “not my will but yours, Lord”. It was raining. I was confident.

Only now I see that a war was waged that day, as those words hung by my breath and settled my spirit.

My words were buoyant as they rolled off my tongue. There are words which roll like marbles into the abyss and these were not those. I see it now that that was a battle cry, a horn sounded and I was in the middle of a tumultuous war that I declared.

This was a difficult season. Like washing I hang up, there is a nice lingering taste to hindsight which I peg and drape in the wintery winds. I can tell you what happened in gulps of time. And I see a lot more than I did. I remember how the Holy Spirit seized me, and sometimes I genuinely thought it was suffocating me. But now I know it was a violent defence of a relentless attack when I mistook the enemy for myself. I punctured my flesh, I wanted to wring my skin and snap my bones, and Holy Spirit you seized me until I was quiet. Until it all was quiet.

Maybe I can hear a faint ring of silence, sometimes, when I am thinking, when I am praising you. When I see you beautifully coloured.

But God I danced in the light of dawn, when the night passed and rolled off my shoulders and curled on the ground. Morning came. I doubted that. Thankfully it didn’t come dependent on my unwavering boldness.

I did not ever consider how violent the war of this life might be. What did I know? Good grief, we don’t know. We don’t know what kinds of attack are welcomed with our very words. Think though further than the most pointed words in history, “It is finished.”

Then I hear the quiet. I hear the fervent, passionate prayer of the Holy Spirit, with utterances I do not understand, ravishing me, violently protecting me, seizing me, from spiritual things I do not understand. It is constant, it is unrelenting, it is the commander of PEACE to my being.

My words were a spear that pierced the ground I did not know I was standing on, they punctured a rim of the elaborate ruse of the evil one, and a war was waged.

I did not know how fearsome committed words and a surrendered heart might be. I did not know how much allegiance would rupture the very corruption which threads this decaying life together. I did not know how much my words would promote armies to heave their battle arms upon one another when I spoke to you in my car that day.

There is so much we don’t know.

“Not my will but yours, Lord.”

Thank you God for the morning, anyway. Thank you that the sun came up. Thank you for making me to let go of the wrestle of the night. There were things I snatched, and I admit, I tried to capture and contain your holiness, because so much fear riddles my heart and I just don’t know. I have had my wrist rung and burnt and bruised by Fear which makes me lost, and I am convinced I have no direction without it. I learnt the clever mocking voice of fear, and I learnt to recognise it in the dark.

Oh Lord how your word of rebuke lets light ripple through this attic room and stripe the cobwebs and sing though the stain glass so prettily. You left me without my fearsome leader, and heaved me up the step leader, and through the narrow space with a tight hand and a tall guide and sat with me on this Persian rug, with you. God, I follow you.

So I have learnt that some things are worth the struggle in the night. Like the struggle of dividing up the affections of my heart but consecrating it all to you. Like the struggle of present discomfort for future embrace. When morning comes, light always overwhelms. I give in Lord and I feel released. I am letting go. I don’t need to wrestle anymore. It is finished.

And it is your will.

Welcome. My wrists chink with oblong jewels and my face is pretty. I am radiant in your courts, and I come not as patient but as queen.

My God, you are exquisite. Through the stain glass, my soul sings.

We are more than conquerors…

“What is with the treasure must fare as the treasure; that the heart which haunts the treasure-house where the moth and rust corrupt, will be exposed to the same ravages as the treasure, will itself be rusted and moth-eaten.
Many a man, many a woman, fair and flourishing to see, is going about with a rusty moth-eaten heart within that form of strength or beauty.
One might argue, “But this is only a figure [of speech].”
True. But is the reality intended less or more than the figure? Does not the rust and the moth mean more than disease? And does not the heart mean more than the heart? Does it not mean a deeper heart, the heart of your own self, not of your body? Of the self that suffers, not pain, but misery? Of the self whose end is not comfort, or enjoyment, but blessedness, yea, ecstasy? A heart which is the inmost chamber wherein springs the divine fountain of your being? A heart which God regards, though you may never have known its existence, not even when its writhings under the gnawing of the moth and the slow fire of the rust have communicated a dull pain to that outer heart which sends the blood to its appointed course through your body?
If God sees that heart corroded with the rust of cares, riddled into caverns and films by the worst of ambition and greed, then your heart is as God sees it, for God sees things as they are. And one day you will be compelled to see, nay, to feel your heart as God sees it; and to know that the cankered thing which you have within you, a prey to the vilest of diseases, is indeed the centre of your being, your very heart.
Nor does the lesson apply to those only who worship Mammon, who give their lives, their best energies to the accumulation of wealth: it applies to those equally who in any way worship the transitory; who seek the praise of men more than the praise of God; who would make a show in the world by wealth, by taste, by intellect, by power, by art, by genius of any kind, and so would gather golden opinions to be treasured in a storehouse of earth.
Nor to such only, but surely to those as well whose pleasures are of a more evidently transitory nature still, such as the pleasures of the senses in every direction — whether lawfully or unlawfully indulged, if the joy of being is centred in them — do these words bear terrible warning. For the hurt lies not in this — that these pleasures are false like the deceptions of magic, for such they are not: pleasures they are; nor yet in this — that they pass away, and leave a fierce disappointment behind: that is only so much the better; but the hurt lies in this: that the immortal, the infinite, created in the image of the everlasting God, is housed with the fading and the corrupting, and clings to them as its good — clings to them till it is infected and interpenetrated with their proper diseases, which assume in it a form more terrible in proportion to the superiority of its kind, that which is mere decay in the one becoming moral vileness in the other, that which fits the one for the dunghill casting the other into the outer darkness; creeps that it may share with them, into a burrow in the earth, where its budded wings wither and damp and drop away from its shoulders, instead of haunting the open plains and the high-uplifted table-lands, spreading abroad its young pinions to the sun and the air, and strengthening them in further and further flights, till at last they should become strong to bear the God-born into the presence of its Father in Heaven. Therein lies the hurt.”
George MacDonald, ‘The Heart with the Treasure’ in Unspoken Sermons

A prayer for anyone going through transition.
‘Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it. Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent. I give you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside. Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

– Common book of prayer, Claiborne.