Writing

  • The Muse

    The Rev. John Fairbrother 14 February 2019

    The Muse

    Between intuition and perceived
    insights rise, animating
    unseen space where meaning’s seed
    germinates the word waiting,
    for light of reason, emotion, need
    to warm the Muse, momentarily freed.

    Courage and faith, water and earth,
    reveal unseen spaces nurturing life,
    strengthening hearts, lifting worth
    of words wielding perception’s knife,
    prising doors of an uneasy birth:
    Originality welcomes the Muse rebirth.

    ©John Fairbrother
    Image by Hannah Olinger, www.unsplash.com

     

     

     

     

  • Diamond Princess

    Tess Ashton 13 February 2019

    Diamond Princess
    1
    get stardust in my eyes
    during worship
    I’m cruising 
    on a winsome sea
    no land or others
    just a breezy forever 
    the wind’s got
    the boat’s white sail 
    full throttle
    Jesus is near
    With words of cool spirit fire
    says
    ‘Look only to me
    not left or right
    keep your eyes on me 
    alone’
    2
    We’re heading to a sunset
    shooting 
    cosmic light 
    ten thousand streams of happiness
    not far from the swing 
    of the foam
    
    one dawn or two later 
    songs by the ‘electric light orchestra’
    tune in 
    I rise and play
    ‘strange magic’ 
    ‘telephone line’
    and ‘twilight’ 
    on you-tube
    several times
    
    the words
    of the songs
    calling 
    to a space
    between earth and heaven
    like the place between the
    boat and home
    3
    in spring
    my sister phones
    ‘come on a cruise to Japan
    my shout 
    we’ll board the diamond princess 
    at Taipei‘
    
    soon our soft-as-cloud beds 
    swing light as coracles
    swept up in the swish 
    of the waves
    
    the dance of the steward
    seems almost anointed
    beds smoothed
    twice a day 
    clothes lightly folded 
    on pillows
    his touch
    like a thousand silent breezes
    surprisingly ok
    
    I’m thinking about love of course
    and how it makes you feel
    when nothing is required
    but to receive 
    and live a little
    
    we check our tiaras 
    at our choice of cruise eatery
    consider delicious thoughts
    of crepes and creamery
    a menu without prices
    a magical ingredient
    
    book a massage 
    or a rest 
    on a hot stone bed
    take a tour round a port
    climb watch towers
    and look out
    
    river sampans drifting far below 
    say Japan Japan
    
    Japan in November 
    shows off its 
    chrysanthemums
    and children
    in blossom-soaked kimonos
    it’s Shichi Go San
    loving parents
    are praying for long life 
    and happiness
    we take photos
    
    in dappled 
    shrine courtyards
    priests rustle silently in sunshine
    and shadow
    4
    one evening 
    rugged-up on deck
    juggling pizza and icy wine
    the kaleidoscope that shoots 
    cosmic light 
    is back
    we’re at Osaka 
    and hard portside
    its famous ferris wheel 
    twice ship height
    is going off
    big-time
    
    glory plays and winks
    while we drink 
    and eat
    and chat
    
    catch the sound of one wheel clapping
    on cue
    ELO
    strikes up 
    on the deck’s big screen
    ‘Hello, can you hear me
    have you been alright?’
    coming down 
    the telephone line
    
    ‘Are you still the same? 
    don't you realize the things we did
    we did were all for real
    
    not a dream?
    I just can't believe
    they've all faded out’ 
    
    God has my full attention
    as Robin 
    books us
    tomorrow’s afternoon 
    of leisure
    I think of times past
    God and I working together
    recall a thousand happy glances
    5
    at ‘the sanctuary’ 
    a private attendant
    brings us soft wool blankets
    to soothe our loads of woe – ha 
    our noses sniff 
    a salty sky
    a place of sighs let out
    
    three courses 
    of afternoon tea
    biscuits 
    of the heavenly sort 
    can’t buy in ordinary shops 
    I think
    as I try one out
    
    then a trolley 
    wheeling sandwiches 
    and angel cakes galore
    each one pretty 
    never tasted before
    6
    as we cruise 
    to our final port
    a thousand waves bow sorrowfully
    I reach a chapter in my book
    my heart jumps
    He is speaking 
    in tsunami sentences
    ‘I want to answer 
    your prayers
    and I will 
    but first soak you 
    in my love’ 
    
    my riven heart
    hears something along this line 
    ‘I have ships
    sailing in living water
    powered for high seas
    you are both queens 
    with domains of love
    like these’
    
    weeks later
    the sky is
    dusted in white
    chrysanthemum pompoms
    ten thousand graces sallying
    white sails billowing
    
    I listen again and write
    love and healing
    for the nations
    sound the trumpets
    blow the horns
    prepare the way of the Lord’.

    end

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image Shutterstock

  • The loose end tree

    Tess Ashton 4 August 2018

    The loose end tree

    Over the river
    the ‘red’ horse
    is munching under the fleur de lis tree
    its scarlet coat deepening ever slightly
    into the most daring of pinks
    Makes this creature the prettiest
    thing anyone could hope to
    see on a hill by a river
    and the people going by on the trains might look up and see
    it and love it and exclaim in their hearts
    look there’s a horse with a beautiful red cover
    it looks fit for a queen.

    A hawthorn says son Ed
    is a magical tree
    and a dark brown horse draped in scarlet
    its elegance swirling
    capturing the branches
    of the brittle hawthorn
    and velvet of creature
    take me back to real time with a spiritual director
    and the loose end tree.

    She helped me draw my
    loose ends as a tree
    saw what was right in front
    of me
    first the question:
    where are you at?
    a crossroads I think
    in work and life
    ok right, draw that, came back.

    Saw a roundabout
    wide roads spark off
    north south east and west
    but was drawn to the centre
    a tree appeared
    drew my loose ends
    as branches
    spiralling off a solid trunk
    no leaves much yet.

    So where are you in the tree?
    high up busy
    doing what, she said?
    don’t know, I murmured
    but as I watched
    old leaves lit up
    like heavenly wonders
    I’d brushed them
    with a greening wand
    and I was a fairy princess.

    Hallelujah, two months later
    I’m part of an incredible moment
    in a suburb with its name
    on a tall tree-like sculpture.

    I’d had to find a new place
    for some free literacy classes
    found a
    church without walls
    welcoming the homeless
    and anyone smudged
    with poor health, drugs, or prison
    people whose sheen
    might welcome wonder dust.

    So I’m up and running
    still feeling my way
    throwing in love
    aim to brighten their senses
    stoke up each one’s callings
    holy spirit long swirling
    the air well prepared
    for any fresh movement
    Here the saints love God
    give space to the Spirit
    here greening is wanted
    high in loose end branches.

    ends

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image Holy Hawthorn, Glastonbury, Flickr

     

     

  • Treatment Room Irony

    Treatment Room Irony

    Dreams do come true if you only wish hard enough. (Peter Pan)

     

    The picture-perfect vista on the wall

    was captioned in the style of Peter Pan –

    that limits only cow the cowardly

    while those who challenge and defy, will win.

     

    Beneath the vista in the treatment room,

    the therapist who knows the harsh terrain

    of injury and coaches those compelled

    to trek its weary paths, applies her skills

    to mitigate; at best perhaps restore

    the stricken limb to function as before.

     

    Since pixie dust and robust self-belief

    can never bring reality to heel,

    her practice shows the caption is a sham:

    the cosmos will not budge for Peter Pan.
     

    © the Revd Jim McPherson
    Image Pinterest

  • After a Wedding Feast

    Dr. Julie Thorpe 24 March 2018

    After a Wedding Feast

    They have no wine

    When the guests have departed,
    the miracle has passed
    and God has gone from his mother,
    she scoops up the leftovers
    to nurse in her lap,
    knees spread apart, knows
    again the humiliation, tastes
    the last drops of wine
    meant for a celebration
    she helped enact.
                                 Alone
    with her need she watches
    her secret load carried
    like a golden seed
    from her body
    to lay in the fields
    painted in purple.

    ©Julie Thorpe
    Image The Sower, Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent Van Gogh Foundation)   

  • Sometime

    Sometime

     

    every living cell in and of its self

    frets and chafes for Life, connecting to

    and nurturing other life, just as

    sometime in the time outside all time

    God had begun beginning by beginning,

    forsaking the lonely splendour of aseity

    for a creation born of Love, with Life

    its Maker’s signature: bold, vibrant,

    bursting out, urgent for God’s sometime

    eighth day of the seven follow-through

     

    © the Revd Jim McPherson
    ©Image Energy Painting: Burst of Life, Joshua Esparza

  • Little Star

    Dr. Julie Thorpe 24 December 2017

    Little Star

    What is your name,
    Your deep name that called to mine
    Glowing vermilion? Tiny
    Ten toes, cleft fingers
    Flung in startle reflex.

    But when I pick you up
    You stink! Reeking
    Of faeces, a honeypot
    For flies to carry your spores
    Airborne from the volva, then
    Burst open as a hollow shoot
    In the ground. The cycle begins

    each Advent, growing
    Star-shaped, blood and guts
    Of the earth’s startled cry
    To be picked up in its smell
    Of fear.
                I name you

    Little Star
    And lay you in the bed
    Of Mary’s garden
    Beside a pink geranium
    For safekeeping
    While I wait
    To hear my name.

    ©Julie Thorpe
    Image star pink geranium, wikipedia

     

     

  • Tis the season

    Tess Ashton 15 December 2017

    Tis the season

    bird on a wire

    let me hear your song

    bird on a wire

    you can do no wrong

    for your singing is

    as love to me

    your tender trill

    thrills my ear and soul

     

    bird on a wire

    tell me where your voice

    comes from

    your plumes so soft

    that write upon my heart

    and i shall leap upon

    the horse dressed in red

    up on the goldy-green hill

    beyond the people

    waiting for the train

    so still

    and i will try to catch your maker

    before the sun comes up

    while he is cool and resting

     

    bird on a wire should i find him

    i will ask why do the birds

    sing so prettily to us

    and why do they

    talk of love

    tell me lover

    i shall say

    what it is love bears

    to play for us that love-torn

    sonnet

     

    i’ll tell him i have heard your trill

    that the flowers have appeared

    in our land

    that the winter has gone

    and the rains are over

    already i know the answer

    this is the season

    of the turtledove

    we are to arise

    and come away

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image Two turtle doves, Felipe Lopez, www.images.unsplash.com

     

     

     

  • God of Small Things

    Ana Lisa de Jong 14 December 2017

    God of Small Things

    My God is the God of small things.

    Seeds....
    Newborn babies.

    Nutshells that contain multiple truths
    in humble small containers.

    My God is the God of small beginnings.

    Like breathing
    or opening eyelids.

    If we but move today
    we can accomplish what he asks.

    God, my God of swaddled babes
    that fumble for the breast

    He teaches us the worth of
    lying still in trust.

    My God is the God of humble things.

    Caves.
    Beds of straw.

    Lives that don’t amount to much
    if judged upon their origins.

    My God is the God of silent things.

    Wombs.
    Passages in the dark.

    Quiet incubators, within which cells divide
    and muscles stretch towards the light.

    God, my God of birth pangs
    and pain that finds release

    He teaches us that the dark
    often precedes new life.

    My God is the god of honed things

    Parred down.
    Simplified.

    A carpenter sanding back the wood
    to reveal the grain beneath.

    My God is the God of beloved things.

    Neglected.
    Abandoned.

    Rescued for nothing they have done,
    but because of a plan of redemption.

    God, my God of Christmas coming
    somehow the wonder of Advent

    is knowing we need do nothing
    but let new life be birthed in us.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong
    Living Tree Poetry

    Image Tim Humphreys, www.images.unsplash.com 

  • Summer

    Summer

    Scarlet, indigo and azure
    kðhatu veined with gold
    and lapis lazuli
    fireflies of silver.

    Textured tapestry
    ocean breeze
    soft petals
    caressing skin
    nestled in warm grass
    blush of pomegranates.

    Breath of ancient trees
    rush of many wings
    symphony of cicadas
    in the afternoon.

    Honey from manuka flowers
    devotion of bees
    sweet wine
    rosemary
    in the drowsy air.

    Salt on lips
    kisses
    strawberries
    passionfruit.

    Flamenco dance of cinnabar moths
    sacred fleeting butterflies.

    Sitting by the fire
    memory re-members
    summers past
    expectant with possibility
    assisting God in a miracle.

    ©Hilary Oxford Smith

    In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back. - Albert Camus

    Image Manuel Meurisse www.images.unsplash.com

  • I Walk Dangerous Paths

    Liz Knowles 3 December 2017

    I Walk Dangerous Paths

     

    I walk dangerous paths
    the line
    between right and wrong
    I am not always right
    (I am not always wrong)
    no parallel lines
    these
    they
    converge in places
    where boundaries are not defined
    and
    I dream
    of arrival.

    ©Liz Knowles
    This poem first published in Candles and Conifers, ed. Ruth Burgess, Wild Goose Publications
    Image www.veritidas.org

  • This Will Pass

    Ana Lisa de Jong 18 September 2017

    This Will Pass

    This too will pass.


    This will pass like the sun rising.
    This will pass like a breath of wind
    across the face of a leaf.
     

    Like the butterfly,
    who just this morning came,
    in a flash of bright colour, and then went.

    It will pass.

    Those things you worry at now,
    with the tip of your tongue.
    Lift up, and weigh, and heavily put down.

    They will pass.

    The things sore yet,
    and burdensome upon your heart.
    They will catch the wind, and graciously depart.

    They will pass.

    And behind, in their wake,
    might come more things.
    But you know this, just as you know yourself adequate.

    For all things pass.

    The butterfly reminds of you this,
    as does the falling leaf.
    And the rising sun, warm now,

    upon your upturned cheek.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong

     

     

  • Along the Verge

     

    No surrender, holding the line of retreat and advance,
    countless blades wave in sullied draft declaring
    nature’s vulnerable defiance, bending
    (springing as a warrior might respond)
    to force of threat overwhelming life.
    These simple leaves - complexity’s prophets, or surplus
    fodder - defend space between fence and seal,
    overlooked, dismissed in hurried expediency
    to an economy’s greater cause.

    ©JFF

  • Autumn leaf

    Autumn leaf

     

    Falling: Round small, golden light
    Nudged from place, purpose done;
    riding air in descent like flight
    decay for energy to become

    radical elements of earth and air,
    among circumstance and chance,
    to meld again without intent or care
    nature’s way for life to enhance

    fertility’s cyclic dance with death
    yet, emotion softens indifferent birth
    diverting fears with romantic breath
    making beauty of decaying worth.

    Matter portrays an endless dance,
    energy held in intimate embrace,
    no more stable than sideways glance
    as change commands survival’s race

    between birth and death, indifference
    remains constant in leaf and stone;
    matter and energy provide no fence
    for life that knows it is alone.

    © JFF

    Image Pixabay

     

  • Alienation

     

    Peripheral glimpse catching a view.
    A river, reflective, ambling with the road,
    sweeping across farmland, beneath trees
    shading banks where life might flourish
    and detritus begins a journey to the sea.

    In a flash, shutter-like, the mind receives
    an image that remains, knowing beauty,
    barely held beyond the instant of sight:
    Seen at speed, seen by chance, valued
    like hope, lingering in the troubled domain.

    Safety commands attention for the road,
    time for work the object to be overcome.
    Vista pass like graffiti on a subway wall,
    apart from purpose, leaving romance,
    if alive, languishing in a wake.

    A scene, insisting, caught in a beat,
    Becoming refined in feelings cast
    like shade across another landscape revealing
    a fractured traverse where heart and mind
    struggle beneath distraction and dis-ease.

    (c) JFF

  • Home (for CU)

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 18 August 2017

    In all his years of wondering
    across oceans to far away islands
    searching for a place to call home
    the man never imagined finding
    such calm in a woman’s eyes.
    They glimmered like bright stars
    guiding sailors through the darkness
    and when she looked into his own
    the man merged with the woman
    like a lost soul finding its mate
    a sea of love enveloping them both
    and he knew at last he was home.

    ©Stuart Coleman

  • The Year That Answered

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 18 August 2017

    There is a kind of wind that blows
    during certain days of the year
    and it’s almost as if it knows
    how to stir up our deepest fears.
    On one of those winter nights
    I called my mom and said, I feel
    as if I might not ever find
    a partner or a love that’s real
    .
    She said, Don’t worry, take your time.
    For there are years that ask questions
    and there are years that give answers.

    Her words lingered in my mind
    and then settled over my soul
    like a warm blanket that winter
    when even the sun felt cold.

    There is a kind of light that shines
    during certain days of the year
    and it seems to calm our minds
    and settle our deepest fears.
    On one of those summer days
    I went to an ancient city
    and saw a couple whose forms lay
    enshrined in ash eternally.
    By the time I returned home
    something opened up inside me
    and I felt alive not alone.
    Then one day at a little café
    I felt a tap on my shoulder
    And when I turned around I knew
    The year had finally answered
    And I at last had found you.

    ©Stuart Coleman

  • The Scribbler's Song (for CU)

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 18 July 2017

    If only I were an artist
    I would paint portraits of you
    lying on your side in bed
    your hand holding your head
    a smile lighting up the world
    like the sunrise that morning
    when I first thought, I love you.

    If only I were a musician
    I would compose songs for you
    holding tightly to my guitar
    the way I once held you
    embracing all that you are
    my fingers caressing chords
    of love as I sang from afar.

    But I am just a scribbler
    sketching these lines for you
    fledgling words waiting to fly
    like hawks soaring across the sky
    or starlings singing on phone lines
    the notes of a fleeting song
    as my thoughts fly home to you.

    ©Stuart Coleman

  • Spring clean

    Peter Clague 18 July 2017

     

    let me sweep your church
    I’d leave the door ajar
    to split the glimpses of grace,
    remind them who you are.

    those who peek within
    drawn to your loyal side
    & you would see without
    the futility of pride.

    I’d stir up with my broom
    the dust of fusty pews
    service to a servant
    a friend they stand to lose.

    I’d clean the stained glass too
    for a little light to shed
    in a gloomy, stale state
    the vision’s limited.

    let me sweep your church
    I’d fling the door back wide
    so you might hear your calling
    to stay, or step outside.

    ©Peter Clague

  • The Auburn-Haired Virgin

    The Auburn-Haired Virgin

     

    mortally imperilling herself

    for love of God, her courage

    far surpassing our conceiving;

     

    the Sinai flame transfiguring

    her hair identifies the newest

    and most singular of human cells

     

    © the Revd Jim McPherson
    Image The Auburn-Haired Virgin, William Bustard 1933

     

  • Sunday Morning

    Ana Lisa de Jong 18 June 2017

    Sunday Morning

    Sunday morning.
    Dawns anew
    in the blue of my heart.

    Too long thinking of things
    that don’t matter,
    until Sunday comes in its blinding light.

    And I wonder where I left them,
    the thoughts I couldn’t put down.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong
    Image Pentecost Dove, flickr

  • Hurunui Cathedral

    Peter Clague 23 October 2016

    Hurunui Cathedral

    whitebone trunks stand
    undeterred by death
    to consecrate the clearing
    in which we laden slump


    on weighty packs, prostrate
    unburdened & enlightening
    strong men slowly learn
    to carry less in life


    this miro vault
    an offering of spring grass
    pig-hallowed & rabbit-holy
    divine, yet no place special


    sacred the ground
    no matter where you linger,
    exigence & a simple upward gaze
    are all that's needed to erect a temple


    for cathedrals
    are but spires risen
    serendipitous in any place
    you choose to need them

    ©peter clague

    Image Whitebone Trunks, Peter Clague

  • pilgrimage

    Peter Clague 21 October 2016

    three nights in the Hurunui
    those were holy days for sure
    such are our observances
    tracts to a slab door


    bowed beneath the straps
    on beam in drizzle night
    resurrected by dawn’s pane
    where tawa fractures light


    creek sway is a liturgy
    boot chant of our youth
    brotherhood of the billy
    who seek a tannin truth


    this priest who walks before me
    bent kneed & lancewood rod
    the salt & savour of him
    who shares my native god


    © peter clague

    Image Sunrise in the Hurunui, Jose Francisco

  • Letter to the world-weary heart

    The Rev. Gayanne Frater 9 October 2016

    Letter to the world-weary heart

    ‘Tis easy,
    is it not,
    to allow those who walk
    halls of power
    to assume
    ‘larger than life’
    presence,
    as if your sphere
    of influence,
    is too small
    to be of any note.
    Your voice,
    the truths you know,
    at the core of your being,
    shrink within,
    dwindling to  wondering whispers
    across your heart’s landscape.
    Your knowing,
    rises from the belly,
    rages even within,
    clamouring to be heard,
    though seldom spoken aloud.
    (except in the privacy of your home, maybe?)
    Words of prophetic potentiality
    lie muted,
    behind closed lips,
    against the backdrop
    of the louder,
    relentless,
    oft repeated,
    sound bite news bits,
    presented
    as truth,
    yet
    in reality
    nothing more
    than slanted
    incomplete
    woefully inadequate
    shards of slivered truth,
    distorted to entertain,
    not to inform.
    ‘Tis tempting to accept
    the numbing of the brain,
    and compassion’s overload
    that comes from having
    hearts that care,
    to accept this
    narrowed,
    marginalised
    space
    you now occupy,
    and become silent
    bystanders
    or powerless
    witnesses
    to the outrageous
    injustices writ large on
    global screens.
    This, however, is not your calling.
    You must stand,
    speak,
    and act
    with hope, faith and love
    and in integrity,
    You must be the people
    you proclaim yourselves to be,
    no matter how tiny
    your sphere of influence
    may appear.
    Hope rises
    with the utterance of
    the tiniest of words,
    little acts of kindness
    and solidarity,
    and the first step
    and then the next.
    You must never forget
    that hidden in the oft dismissed
    and overlooked ‘tinyness’ of life
    lies greatness,
    says the mustard seed.

    ©Gayanne Frater

  • The little anglican church

    Tess Ashton 28 July 2016

    The little anglican church

    In the nave
    two chairs with arms
    look at each other

    on the
    trail of window sills
    queen anne’s lace
    stencils
    sun and shadow

    above the altar
    a collage of local
    hills and houses
    church and local theatre
    train at the station

    the place I get off
    is where love
    and grief collide
    just a feeling
    inside

    when the Shepherd
    comes looking
    for me
    when His heart
    calls
    i’ll run
    the road
    of paradise
    won’t look
    behind
     

    ends

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985)  Song of Songs IV

  • The Knee Replacement (Improv. on Phillipians 2)

     

    It’s been a long time
    since this knee could bend
    at the name of Jesus, or anything else –

    the challenge to clamber
    over rocks on a hillside
    hiking with teenagers
    in spite of their playlists and texts,

    the sharp cry of a small child
    skinned up from a fall
    or wanting to show me an ant,

    the longing to gather
    a handful of sand at the beach
    and let it run through my fingers
    remembering someone
    whose life slides like grains
    into the sweet saltiness of the ocean.

    (those may actually be the name of Jesus
    just in some other Pentecost.)

    And I am anticipating
    a certain emptying
    to let go my signature impairment --

    emptying anaesthesia, for one –
    a fold in reality,
    protecting me from what
    I can never grasp,

    and being humbled to
    catheters, johnnies, and opioids
    in spite of not liking the idea
    of any one of them,
    being obedient to physical therapy,
    not to speak of the
    continuous motion machine
    which is not …
    No! absolutely not a cross.

    So what kind of mind
    is Paul suggesting
    that I am supposed to have?

    Perhaps a light one
    that slips into anthroplasty
    on my way to confessing
    the truest Name of all –

    and bends for a hill walk,
    a child’s call of fear and joy,
    and handfuls of love
    for people I know or will never meet,

    also many other unexpected
    holy kneelings.

    ©Maren Tirabassi
     

     

  • Light of snow falling

    Tess Ashton 18 June 2016

    for Olivia in Calgary

    We tumble out the basement door
    eyes dance
    warm and low from the downstairs porch
    to the distance

    the snow’s laid out on the pond
    on the banks and on the grasses
    on the circle of still houses
    and tender birches

    the sky is vast and blue
    ice drifting through

    you draw pink and orange spring flowers
    kneeling on the concrete slab
    I experiment with charcoal
    sit at the cold glass table

    efforts with banks and far houses 
    collapse in the brilliance of the light
    on the snowy paper

    the wire fence
    comes out largest
    suffocating the pale grasses
    and lonely bird-shelter
    in the branches

    leave you all for a tall retreat house
    in the Mission District
    Sisters flow in the Spirit
    by the Elbow River

    when you and mum visit there’s a miracle
    a snowshoe hare, cat and blackbird
    sit in a circle
    near the Peace sculpture

    I’d found a book on my bed
    St Francis
    waiting to be read

    held me tight in the days and nights
    ‘the things that happen in this old house’
    Sister said

    yesterday white chrysanthemums
    explosions on a local flower trolley
    His love like light of snow falling

    at church a young woman
    has painted the Lord 
    walking hand in hand with a girl
    the path is cool under high trees
    leaves on fire

    today your crisp white hapkido uniform
    has a belt of blazing orange
    you a fighter of the light

    For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. (Psalm 91: 11-12)

    ©Tess Ashton

     

  • The fire of Divine Love

    The fire of Divine Love

    Focussed was I,
    on the pain of fiery rage
    I lost sight of fire's beauty.
    Divine energy
    within us all,
    enlivening,
    quickening us to love.
    Inner fire heats,
    heals,
    hallows hope
    and compels us to act
    in love.
    Sparks fly,
    dancing
    across darkened expanse,
    echoing ancient truth -
    light shines in darkness.
    Fire harnessed,
    blazes a trail
    through darkest night,
    in our deepest loneliness.
    Fire of life,
    divine Love,
    in the coldest night - warm us;
    at the deepest point of fear,
    - grant us courage;
    through the darkest night
    shine a light of hope and love.
    Divine love,
    fire of God,
    drive out all fear,
    that we may truly
    be worthy
    of our calling
    to be human.

    ©Gayanne Frater

    Image: The Carabosse Fire Garden, Auckland Domain 2016, Gayanne Frater   

     

  • Goodbye Edmonton with God and Eric Clapton

    Tess Ashton 18 February 2016

    Goodbye Edmonton with God and Eric Clapton

    Goodbye
    to quiet
    moments
    before and after
    visits to a
    bunch of
    attractions
    off the
    north saskatchewan
    river

    light shining through

    The zoo
    has a kea
    in its bird collection
    wings and eyes
    dead empty
    we’ve seen you dance
    pinching cakes
    at Arthurs Pass
    we tell it
    through
    weeping
    bars
    gently

    I’m at my
    breaking point
    my breaking point

    Goodbye
    to Remedy Café
    we loved your
    cakes
    and
    local organics
    your caffeine fixes
    ‘n blitzed up elixirs
    chai lattes
    stewed
    for three
    days and
    nights

    fill up my heart
    or tear it apart

    Goodbye to
    our daughter
    her Edmonton
    man’s
    back-yard
    silent
    ‘til eleven

    been waiting for
    your company

    the Metis Indian
    neighbours’
    invitation
    to “a fire”
    last Thursday
    still warming
    the air this
    Labour Monday
    and the squirrels
    are quiet

    you take my heart
    into everything
    you do

    In the
    dark belly of our
    basement quarters
    renovated
    through a
    sub-zero winter
    we’ve prayed
    in whispers
    summer bush
    fires

    let it rain
    rain rain

    the stumble and gurgle
    of the gas
    air conditioning
    a treat
    to the beat of
    what’s deep
    and active

    I’m with you my love

    From bed
    sent our smoke signals
    three stories out
    found a sky
    to rest on
    my toothache
    settled

    knock knock
    knockin’
    on heaven’s door

    God said
    ‘I have
    Everything sorted’
    felt the download
    like an upload
    God’s great sense
    of fun-load

    I said
    you put my heart
    on overload

    Am sure He said

    I feel wonderful
    tonight

    Drove south
    found a field
    with prairie fever
    small otter-e heads
    popping
    up all over
    amazing
    tunnel
    architecture

    getting too dark
    to see

    From the car
    the plains
    go nowhere
    much
    between grey pylons
    under pounce
    of crash and boom
    clouds
    lately bush fire yellow
    or a red sun

    you don’t realise
    how much
    I love
    You

    Feels like
    we’re drifters
    our voices
    lost in prairie
    time and distance
    further than
    imagination
    goes

    I must be strong
    and carry
    on

    Thanks
    Mr Clapton
    we’re singing
    Alberta Alberta

    in all your
    wandering
    places
    in all your
    wondering
    tones

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image  Eric Clapton, Leonid Afrema with kind permission

  • Christmas Baby

    Tess Ashton 26 December 2015

    Christmas Baby

     

    try and describe the softest thing
    a tree’s sheen of green
    in spring
    a cloud drifting - only blue behind –
    the breath of a new baby
    in a mother’s heart
    words very
    very hard to find

    i think of the poet - Sam -
    who might as well have said
    babies trees clouds
    when he was talking about
    poems
    said poems aren’t like anything else
    ‘just as Christ wasn’t like
    Moses or John or anyone
    a poem is itself
    it’s all in there
    not anywhere else’

    another poet – Gerard -
    said the word
    that aches most
    from the softest things
    like babies
    trees and clouds
    is love

    Zoe Bonnie is a poem
    sailing in a cloud
    has to be top of the tree
    for Natalie
    and all who love her
    whether
    on earth
    or
    in heaven

    ©Tess Ashton

    written for Natalie and Zoe Bonnie, named after Granma Bonnie

    Image  Zoe Bonnie by kind permission of her family

  • earth's dreamers

    Tess Ashton 30 November 2015

    earth's dreamers

     

    sunless forests
    cut their losses
    that’s them
    flouncing in pearl-soft
    cotton

    lonely fields
    take a chance
    race off to the arms
    of clear blue heavens

    parched deserts
    switch the light
    cool and sparkle in
    silhouette night

    coral losing ground
    rides the wave
    of rainbow life

    sky therapy
    appeals to
    all earth’s dreamers

    I shoot
    the breeze
    with let go trees
    sip rainbow hues
    laced with
    starry gold

    join fields
    running blue
    gentle beasts
    flying through

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image: www.flickr.com

  • Thoughts of a harassed mother as Christmas approaches

    Margaret Lyall 18 October 2015

    Thoughts of a harassed mother as Christmas approaches

    Stress and distress, crisis on crisis,
    mind, body and spirit cannot take much more.
    Utter exhaustion, energy finished,
    pain and despair, darkness and silence.

    Then, piercing the silence, the cry of an infant,
    heralding One who will suffer and die.
    Through His living and dying His love will be steadfast
    His Spirit set free and gifted to all.

    Can this really be true?
    Does it fit with experience?
    There's reluctance to believe such a staggering claim.

    And yet, to be honest, so often it happens
    In the depths of the pain, in the pit of despair... 
      - through others' hands His hands stretch out to touch
      - through others' eyes His eyes look out in love
      - through others' lips His lips speak words of care…
    and faith is rekindled, in response to His words
    'What more must I do for you to believe?'

    Minds cannot comprehend;
    truth is veiled in paradox.
    But every time doubt becomes stronger,
    a potentially deeper faith
    yearns to reach out and embrace it…
    like light piercing the darkness.

    ©Margaret Lyall

    Image www.christiannetwork.com

  • Advertisement for Uber, The Thinker, my sister and daughter and all things about love in Philadelphia

    Tess Ashton 15 October 2015

    Advertisement for Uber, The Thinker, my sister and daughter and all things about love in Philadelphia

    My loving sister who lives

    in Philadelphia
    first city of America
                city of a thousand trees and
    slim pretty streets
    where window boxes
    spill with flowers and 4th of July flags
    and people gather on pavement chairs
    tipped out tight doorways
    over high front stairs
    terrace-house knees negotiating
    close as the tree limbs
    colonnading
    speak brotherly love
    drink sisterly wines
    on hot Friday nights

                 My sister I was saying
    has the Uber app
    on her phone
    we used it twice when we visited
    right now I’m started…
    she Uber’d
    to get us round the corner
    me, husband Lloyd and grandson Caspar
    from Parkway Apartments
    art deco with a hint of gothic flair
    in Logan Square
    to terrace house digs
    in sweet Meredith
    heart of the arts quarter
    where Rocky at the
    steps of the Philadelphia
    Museum of Art
    is hot property
    the city’s latest addition
    to its statue collection

                 as I was saying
    enlivened by our
    exciting reunion with
    our daughter Alex
    and granddaughter Olivia
    down from Canada
    on that first evening at my sister’s
    we and Caspar wafted one with the lift
    that once carried
    education board people
    out to the marble edge of Winter St
    and elegant
    Pennsylvania
    Avenue
    where classical trees
    loftily mind
    the people below who
    stop by
    Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’
    and those mesmerised
    by the art at the Barnes Foundation
    who come out bearing
    Cezanne apple and pear
    candle fruit mementos
    that make fools
    of customs officers at airports  – ha!
    and bring postcards of Matisse
    and Picasso riches home
    for mantel pieces

                  High classical trees that cool
    people who visit
    the science museum
    of Benjamin Franklin
    in the summer season
    and who loll on the grass
    with homeless people
    like lionesses
    while grand children
    play on the swans and
    the giant First Nation people
    at Logan Circle

                  but re my sister and Uber
    our light toes had barely
    reached the pavement
    our hearts one
    with the hot American night
    when our Uber appeared
    a black Chevy sculpture
    a mere click of the fingers
    from there to here
    Denzel Washington quipped hubby later
    was the driver
    tall as a Pennsylvania night
    and lustrous as a god
    we were fated to be in possession of
    for a moment
    gave reason
    to later muse
    on the panoply of
    guiding trees
    the dark bronze sculpture
    in Rodin’s Gallery garden
    we would pass several times
    on our walk to Wholefoods
    organic supermarket
    where they employ disabled people
    and yellow shopping bags have LOVE
    in big letters
    a take on
    the famous Love sculpture in the Love Park
    on the JFK Boulevard
    by the fountain where the kids
    all rush and play
    in the heat of July holidays

                  It was ‘The Thinker’
    got me humming
    through the week
    that came
    the plaque explained
    on close inspection
    is the top small figure
    created for
    a sculpture
    of Dante’s
    ‘The Gates Of Hell’
    then the artist
    enlarged his expression
    to personify all inspiration
    behind creative thought
    an answer to my old question
    about what’s behind all things poetic
    bizarre this driver
    for a moment
    personified the revelation
    that love is in motion
    here in Philadelphia

                 In the back of his Chevvy
    our stuff and my family
    tumbled about the leather excitedly
    from the front
    I marveled the way
    of our limo-trained driver
    the pay-later scheme
    completed the golden mile
    next day
    we returned from being out
    to find Caspar’s
    red running shoes
    glowing on the doorstep
    like Cinder’s slippers
    dropped in the getaway
    returned by Uber
    a surprising
    thing for a taxi driver

                  But Uber is like no other
    fits well in the city of brothers
    where Penn the Father
    was known to interpret
    St Paul’s words of freedom
    ‘Love is above all;
    and when it prevails in us all,
    we shall all be lovely,
    and in love with God and one with another’
    hail to Philadelphia’s far walking father
    and my sister, daughter, grand daughter
    husband, and grandson
    and the Uber driver and trees and art
    in Pennsylvania

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image Philadelphia Love Statue  www.philly.com

    Side note:
    America’s first city named by
    its far-seeing owner
    William Penn who dreamed it all
    devotee of St Paul
    America’s first Quaker
    set the hopeful standard
    for extravagant love
    his city plan and libertarian principles
    inspired
    Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin
    the American constitution
    invited British and European persecuted
    Hugenots, Mennonites
    Amish, Catholics, Lutherans and Jews
    in time art lovers with Penn’s Oxford
    training
    people with money
    got persuaded
    made bronze statues of mothers and fathers
    heros and heroines
    planted them like muses on
    the ridiculously clever
    town planner’s
    broad plazas

     

  • Any Where and The Beloved Disciple

    Any Where and The Beloved Disciple

    Any Where

    the bonnet of a car in Mount Ginini’s mist, a cathedral or

    a homestead, or beside a hospice bed when time and breath

    are short; even inside cinder block and razor wire; any where

    is where enough for us well-meaning clumsies hungering

    after more than scroggin for The Track, who gathering brave

    his Triduum to feast upon the fullness of his empty tomb;

    and feasting find ourselves – each one – as the Beloved Disciple

    gathered and in-folded to the hem of his eighth day

     

    The Beloved Disciple

    John’s Gospel is famously unique for its seemingly ‘loose’ treatment of history.[1] I suggest this seemingly cavalier approach to history is to make some strong theological points connected with the driving theological purpose articulated in his opening sentence: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

    This has allowed the evangelist to ‘invent’ an enigmatic character: ‘the Beloved Disciple’. From the viewpoint of strict historical analysis, the Beloved Disciple is apparently guilty of criminal negligence: when Jesus tells him unmistakably who the betrayer is (‘the one to whom I give this bread…’ 13:26). The Beloved Disciple does nothing at all to change the course of events.

    It is necessary to look through another lens.

    There is a venerable Hebrew tradition that goes at least as far back as the Book of Deuteronomy, that all the future generations of Israel were already present as witnesses to the Exodus/Passover and God’s definitive revelation on Mount Sinai, the core events of Israel’s collective memory. Each generation is thereby invited to see, with the eyes of faith, what their predecessors saw – and so enter into it for themselves. While clearly not historically possible, the effect is nevertheless dramatically compelling.

    Again and again, the audience of the national assembly is reminded that they have seen…the portentous events that Moses is rehearsing. At one remove, the members of the historical audience of the Book of Deuteronomy  are implicitly invited to imagine what their forebears actually saw, to see it vicariously. The midrashic notion that all future generations of Israel were already present as witnesses at Sinai is adumbrated, perhaps actually generated, by this rhetorical strategy of the evocation of witnessing in Deuteronomy.[2]

    This added depth to an article about the Beloved Disciple, published in 1983 by Margaret Pamment.[3] Her article enabled me to view John’s ‘Beloved Disciple’ as a rhetorical creation, part of the Johannine ‘evocation of witnessing’. The Beloved Disciple becomes our entry point, our ancestor in the faith, the one in whom we were actually present and experienced these things.

    My poem suggests, first, that every Eucharist is a participation in Jesus’ historic Triduum (a different sort of ‘track’). Further, that my twenty-first century participation in a Eucharist transports me into the historic Last Supper, as the Beloved Disciple in whom I am historically present but unable to change the course of events that night because historically they have already run their course.

    My poem suggests, secondly, through the imagery of ‘the eighth day’ that every Eucharist transports me and all faithful participants eschatologically into the Messianic Banquet.[4]

    Any where is where enough.

    ©The Revd. Jim McPherson

    Image Parishioners of St. Stephen’s Kambah: Eucharist, Mount Ginini, 23rd April 1989: David Rainey and Jim McPherson on their sponsored bushwalk around the Australian Capital Territory.

     

                                                                                                            

     

    [1] Jesus is frequently in Jerusalem, whereas in Matthew and Mark, he arrives there from Galilee for the first time on Palm Sunday, after extensive ministry in the north of Galilee. Luke records one single visit before Palm Sunday, when Jesus was twelve years old.

    [2] Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses (2004), pp 869 - 873

    [3] Margaret Pamment, The Fourth Gospel’s Beloved Disciple, The Expository Times, September 1983, vol. 94 #12:363-367

    [4] The ‘eighth day of the week’ refers to an ancient Christian liturgical practice, inextricably related to Christian identity, which yearned for ‘the eighth day’ which ‘opens toward what cannot be reached simply by more days like those of the seven day weeks we have known…opening toward the day beyond days, toward the last day of God.’ (Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy Things (1993), pp 36 – 43.  

  • The Dancer

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 19 August 2015

    The Dancer

    (For APC)

    I never knew my mother
    was a dancer and a lover
    of ballet until suddenly
    last summer when she told me
    during a long phone call how she
    once danced upon the stage
    years ago in another age.
    At that moment I realized
    just as stars glimmer in the night
    and the moon shines like a spotlight
    my mother dances in my eyes.

    © Stuart Holmes Coleman

    Image Stuart Holmes Coleman

  • Father's Day

    Stuart Holmes Coleman 19 August 2015

    Father's Day

    My mother used to say
    she didn't know why she
    carried me for nine months
    when my father could have

    spat me out in one day.

    Indeed it is hard to tell
    our childhood pictures apart.

    But we chose different lives--

    he was a drummer boy
    leading the marching band

    and I was a surfer boy
    searching for waves of change.

    He became a preacher

    a civil rights leader

    and a father of four.

    I became a teacher

    writer and reformer
    with no kids of my own.

    As different as we are

    I know we share the same
    fragile heart and brittle bones.

    ©Stuart H. Coleman

    Image Father and Son Assess the Surf, Kotu Beach, Gambia www.iaincampbellphotography.com

  • The Flotsam in the Bay

    The Flotsam in the Bay

     

    There’s no hurry in a beach walk
    it’s an amble, not a stride.
    Step out too quickly and you’ll miss
    the gifts borne by the tide.

    The point is not to get someplace
    or clock another mile.
    It’s the manner of your travelling
    which makes the walk worthwhile.

    So let your gaze go wandering
    as you stroll along the sand.
    And when you find a treasure, pause
    and take it in your hand

    and wonder at the choice you’ve made.
    Why did this speak to you?
    This stone, or shell, or piece of glass –
    its shimmer, shape or hue?

    And why did others pass it by
    and leave it in its place?
    Because you’re you, and they’re themselves.
    Our selfhood is a grace.

    And grace it is, when we forget
    our names along the way.
    To find ourselves again amongst
    the flotsam in the bay.

    ©Paul McKeown
    Image Paul McKeown

  • Swing Trilogy

    Tess Ashton 27 July 2015

    Swing Trilogy

    Jives

    I wake to your jiving
    trees
    you’re wired
    hot as rock guitars
    rollicking with the fences
    to the top bush line

    and hills
    you play a mean base
    your grasses ripple
    lit gold
    young flames shooting
    electric rain

    and above
    the clouds raked into
    icing swirls

    this feast of joy
    is working
    hills and clouds and trees
    like me
    are celebrating

    Dufy’s holiday dazzle

    you’re a
    minstrel of joy
    Raoul
    when I read that description
    I knew
    what I knew
    was true
    your Eiffel towers
    your yachts
    and hotels
    erupting in a mass of
    couldn’t care less
    clouds
    have work to do
    point to
    the dazzle of holidays
    and
    entrenched happiness

    Van Gogh go go

    it’s a Van Gogh go go
    breaking the heart
    of everything apart
    hill and tree and clouds
    are rocking
    while the wind
    of a Dufy summer
    keeps everything
    breezy and
    happily together

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image Two dancers 1938, Henri Matisse

     

  • Winter solstice song

    Tess Ashton 10 July 2015

    Winter solstice song

     

    Anyone want to do something different?
    Instead of job hunt
    Read a poem?
    And reflect on it?

    Heads nod
    Eyes wide
    What’s she on about?
    Go to the tried and true
    Google sam hunt
    Winter solstice song comes up
    Print off
    Hand out a copy to
    Each one willing
    To be captive to
    A surprise
    A word so like sunrise

    To begin I attempt
    To explain
    The nature of words
    By asking them
    What do they think
    Words are?
    No one says weapons
    That’s a good start

    I help by saying
    Words are potent
    Units of memory
    That
    Hold different
    Images and meaning
    For each of us

    For example
    If I say the colour red
    What do we each see?
    Round the room
    It’s a flag
    Sunrise
    A highlighter pen
    Just red

    The exercise is to
    Listen to the reading
    A couple of times
    And underline the words and
    Phrases that
    Stand out or speak a little more loudly
    Than the others

    …‘But it is 
    the year's shortest day
    when anything can happen,
    miracles 'not a problem'.

    The sun five minutes with us
    came and left with a kiss.
    We believe in miracles. That, love,
    is all we have.’

    The work of poetry
    Is to find the message of hope in the poem
    I say brightly

    So everybody
    Take the word that’s calling you
    Now write about it
    What has it got to say
    To you today?

    It was the words
    Winter solstice
    That must have caught Sam’s heart
    When he sat to write
    And the ones that
    Caught mine
    For the 50th time?

    ‘miracles 'not a problem'.

    end

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image Winter Solstice Wendy L. Wilkerson

     

  • Waves

    Waves

    The bus was early
    or we were late.
    Either way, they fled
    with fleeting kisses,
    schoolbags pummelling skinny legs
    all down the driveway –
    scared the driver wouldn’t wait.

    Smiling, I watched them,
    as the coach door
    slid home, hissing,
    and pigtailed shadows
    waved goodbye through tinted glass.
    I answered – hand raised
    in the primal semaphore

    of parting - and held
    the stance a while,
    pondering waves.
    Remembering John,
    who’d talk you into stupor
    for an afternoon
    but farewell’d in the old style -

    a courteous sentry
    overseeing
    your departure from
    his top step vantage.
    He’d send a wordless blessing
    from an open palm
    to dignify your leaving.

    Sundays at granny’s -
    full of healing
    hospitality.
    The comforting sprawl
    of table, couch and chatter
    asked little of us
    and always left us feeling

    more loved and loving.
    The kids required
    a herding, car-wards,
    by the end. Windows
    gaping, they’d holler out their
    ‘bye’s right down the brae,
    waving madly. Happily tired.

    And dear old Mildred.
    From Pulpit Hill
    she'd watch your ferry
    churn into the Sound
    of Mull, and wave a tea towel
    at the specks we were
    as if to say, ‘I see you still’.

    ©Paul McKeown
    Image The Caledonian Macbrayne Ferry sailing by Duart Castle, The Isle of Mull, Scotland by Paul McKeown

  • The Pentecostal lady apostle from Brisbane

    Tess Ashton 7 June 2015

    The Pentecostal lady apostle from Brisbane

    The pentecostal lady apostle
    from Brisbane
    heard recently
    at a women’s conference
    had a dream
    Aunty came to visit
    after a bit
    announced
    was leaving for home
    back over a perilously rising
    river

    You can’t go now aunty
    you’ll drown…
    but Aunt Hope
    was determined
    and quickly made off
    toward the gushing stream

    The apostle tried her best to stop
    the worst from happening
    but fast as a firebrand
    the old lady
    threw herself
    Into the swirling foam

    come back Aunt Hope
    come back
    come back Hope
    Hope
    come back
    Hoooope
    cooome baaaack

    but now Aunt Hope
    was being washed away
    like limp tinder
    until her plucky foot struck a sandbank
    and held her fast

    then the apostle
    plunged forth
    and believing with all her heart
    reached out and
    grabbed Aunt Hope’s hand
    she pulled and pulled
    and pulled until
    the two lay gasping
    on the grass

    Oh said Aunt Hope
    I’m going to come
    and live with you
    sleep with you
    in your double bed
    in your motel home
    never leave you
    Ok thought the apostle
    I’ll cope

    It was a dream remember

    Pushing her luck Aunt Hope said
    but I’ll have to bring
    my friend with me
    and the apostle thought
    that’ll be a squeeze

    but ok
    the friend can have
    the little annexe
    off the main bedroom
    there’s a bed
    pretty messy
    lots of junk on it

    so the friend arrived
    and had a look and said
    oh no
    I’m not sleeping there
    I’m sleeping in the double bed
    with you and Hope
    where you and Hope are
    I’ve gotta be
    said Aunt Faith

    And that’s the story of how
    the pentecostal apostle
    from Brisbane
    got hope back
    and once she got hope back then
    faith moved back too

    soon it was all

    moving mountains
    from here
    to there
    faith stuff
    true evidence
    of hope’s return

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image  www.pinterest.com

  • new positivity buzz

    Tess Ashton 31 May 2015

    new positivity buzz

     

    I got my hair cut
    On Saturday
    felt I had a winner
    as I peered,
    younger,
    in the salon mirror

    Strange how this hairdresser
    put me
    on another level
    my husband kept looking at me
    appreciatively later

    Wow 15 years
    smashed
    said a workmate
    on Monday

    My spiritual director
    found me lighter
    on Tuesday

    It’s my positivity theology
    I explained
    I cut off the dead wood:
    my hair’s
    a symbol of that

    I’m experimenting
    with happiness
    joy
    and optimism
    am on the lookout
    for coins in the mouths
    of fishes

    like the feel
    of the breeze
    round my neck as I worship
    it’s a wind blowing
    and kind of
    delicious

    Now the
    angels all praising
    and the power
    of the Spirit
    are free to attend
    to all
    my good wishes

    it’s Pentecost time
    I’m playing
    with fire
    standing right
    in the way
    of all heaven’s
    chances

    To start with some
    negative ghosts
    hanging round
    kicked up –
    shoved off
    once they knew
    I meant business

    Once I’d staked out my ground

    ©Tess Ashton
    Image: Evening Breeze, Henri-Edmond Cross 1894

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Three stanzas for Christchurch

    Tess Ashton 15 May 2015

    Three stanzas for Christchurch

    Three stanzas for Christchurch  

    (taken from two larger poems written towards the end of 2009
    and before the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011)

    Christchurch Girls’ High School girls by the Avon in 1968

    we danced
    through hagley park
    from tennis court to school
    girls falling

    like amazonians
    to tiny avon’s charms
    threw jungle calls round weeping trees
    swung ropes that rang the bells

    the dream of swan and stream
    had us in its spell
    our phys-ed teacher lingered
    let the ballet play

    deep limey banks
    stalled the call
    to wade the sparkling road
    chucked the ball mid-stream instead

    skimmed toward glimmers
    of light ahead
    recollection, refraction
    threw it back 40 years on

    close by, afternoon-empty
    classrooms breathed
    greek guardians hovered
    between school and pond

    layers of living words
    whirling adrift of books
    girls limbering-up
    licks of river green that summer

    red and orange flames late autumn

     

    The fire - Christchurch Cathedral

    When I saw the strange flares yesterday
    in a cheap African wood-cut
    black peasants swirling with sky-borne water pots
    long-swung arms welcoming the desert

    the rhythm of first nation people
    already warring in my gut
    a message going out in
    a drum-beating time smouldering
    the ridge-line
    of me

    I’d been thinking of
    Christchurch Cathedral
    a catacomb for flights
    round mystery’s realms
    where knees

    tender and grimacing on stable straw     
    soften the ancient mats
    temper souls
    then it seemed the flames licked up          

    the starry cathedral sky
    scattered sparks of desert sand
    merged into an orange molten hand
    fingers coloured the gleaming night

    Spirit madly at work
    painting the whole town red                      
    living light thrown in swatches round                     
    the grey billowy stone

    then the out-breath
    of the diamond show    
    a freely wandering sky
    no slim pointing spire                    

    or light-daubed dark stone            
    instead scorching searching eyes
    reached from the plain of rubble
    and gazed upon the wide-arcing blue

    those who hadn’t knelt
    the prism floors too

     

    The River Avon

    a city centre was held captive by a quiet dream
    a river that rarely overflowed
    so deep its parent banks
    burnt a tedious hole in the heart of a peninsula

    dreams so stagnant
    caught without a tide
    yet time on its side to break out on the left and the right
    for a fountain to break the well’s deep dark

    to shock the stream
    move it to the wide windy ocean
    the resonant fire banked up in me
    could be this fountain ready to burst

    to scourge the plains
    the rising spread of daffodils
    the centuries’ old signal along the banks
    fragrant trumpets calling the tune

    and after the blaze the azure sky will turn
    the green shadows of the stream
    into a reflection
    of blue  of blue   of blue

    in christchurch where the river glows
    and sparkles tolling like child bells
    between high parent banks
    like a well forgotten

    then losing its place
    its moorings
    runs away carving its own sweet path
    the worry of a songbird

    created in its wake
    toward its true home
    the boatsheds  the tearooms  the botanic gardens
    the coalescent riverside offices and pearlescent stately city homes

    green backyards that run to the edge of near drowning
    my sister raked safely in to port
    the family lawn
    witnessed from a low clerestory window
    through which children peep

    when they sink beneath the tide
    to flow within the deep.

    ends

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image Window, Annette Woodford www.annettewoodford.wordpress.com

  • Hill and tree poems

    Tess Ashton 5 May 2015

    Hill and  tree poems

    i
    A church and a bell

    I’ve seen a tree on a hill
    (with a church and a bell)
    out my window
    for 17 years now
    alone without leaves
    I now realize
    must be dead
    from this side of the river
    who knows
    yet says
    ‘I stand for all
    things set apart
    by those with an eye
    for things placed
    on a hill
    or a table
    for contemplation’
    and I realize
    it’s a dead tree talking
    warming the living
    saying love
    is complete
    in all things
    given

    ii
    Hunger

    when i look at the
    tree on the hill
    with the church and the bell
    and the river in front
    and the bush
    on the edge
    of cloud-touched tracks
    the slow-moving rhythm
    of the sky above
    a poem no less
    with a train
    running through

    but what is a poem
    but truth coming forth
    like Heidegger’s
    butterfly
    or a moment
    of leaving from
    a railway station

    the crying most often
    i come to the
    hill sounds the call
    for children
    hungry and dying
    how best to help
    where are
    they exactly?

    a feeling below
    of small hollow boats
    on long empty rivers
    forgotten then
    sailing then lifting
    on rainbows
    children and babies
    no fanfare
    or tombstones

    iii
    Yang Yang and the view from the back

    Above the tree on the hill there’s a Catholic
    church with woods backed up facing
    us  Off the flat ‘burb road from
    the cul de sac entry
    there’s a school
    attached
    too I
    haven’t

    seen lately
    What the kids don’t
    know there’s a hill stretching
    downwards to a pink-blue river sky in its
    mirror  On the back of the hill the sun comes
    early shifting things in the dark with
    light across pasture  Think often
    of ‘yi yi: a one and a two

    a movie that speaks
    of forgotten
    views  A boy
    with his camera
    clicks heads from the
    back  says we all need help
    with the tracks we’re immune to 
    On Sunday went swimming in singing and

    sermon and movie and river and light on hill
    gliding  caught the rear view from
    Colossians too  the wind of
    the Spirit showed some-
    thing odd though
    a cloud of my
    making
    jiggled a warning

    Shamed  to name sins
    that cut into focus   Today
    stroked the back of a neck of a loved
    one felt the scar where hearing was taken
    forever  Clever Yang Yang to spot a least thought about angle  

    iv
    The days and nights of Manapau St

    blue
    pink blue
    blue orange
    orange black
    black black

    sets the red station light
    moon of the train
    the bridge and town
    alight in the distance
    clack clack

    as the train goes by
    with the river
    and clouds
    who’d move?
    relax relax

    you might touch God
    it’s paradise
    here
    in the cosy ‘burb
    most times most times

    and the hills over there
    and the river
    in front
    and lights and city
    in tiny perspective
    this place this place

    here clouds
    and people
    stride together
    the old troll bridge
    to catch the train
    to town to town

    past our verandah
    meander the station
    the edge of the
    platform
    the way of the journey
    so near so near

    Meadowbank kids
    perch in formation
    itching til airborne
    bedrooms like hurricanes
    ducks going somewhere
    lift off lift off

    by tides and timetables
    hearts spin back
    to days and nights
    of pink and blue
    and orange and black
    think back think back

    v
    Fool on the hill

    outa that scene
    for good
    rear view
    mirror
    tells a story
    giant sun
    proclaiming
    glory
    not disaster
    on the hill

    home alone
    rays bear down
    deepest
    heaven
    four years
    rot
    dug out
    in twenty
    minutes

    nervy dream
    old scene
    naked
    In the elevator
    heading for
    the upper
    floor
    be still
    hints
    St Francis

    next day
    wander to
    garden centre
    a rose
    my name
    chosen for
    spring promotion
    heart felt
    description
    swirl of love
    birthday gift
    from heavenly
    Father

    ©Tess Ashton

    Image  The Slain Tree  Eric Lee-Johnson c. 1945, Auckland, New Zealand

  • Midday Interruption

    Midday Interruption

    Darkened sky,
    torrential rain,
    roiling thunder
    exploding overhead,
    road corner flooding within minutes
    - Glen Innes is awash.
    At the checkout, a voice is heard,
    I hope the rain stops in time
    for the cricket tomorrow'
    Cricket – really?
    so the last thing on my mind!
    Instead I stand in awe of the rain,
    make a run for it,
    Splash through deep puddles,
    thoroughly drenched
    yet full of delight
    by this unexpected
    disruption to a summer’s day.
    Landscape transformation in one moment.
    Let's embrace the turbulence
    of change,
    when it appears.
    It's a sign of life,
    sign of hope,
    stating we are not in control,
    no matter how much
    we may think we are,
    and its okay.

    Homeward bound,
    visibility minimal,
    oncoming car headlights
    yellow-bright
    guide me home
    as traffic crawls
    across Kepa Road bridge.
     

    Car unloaded,
    grocery bags strewn across the floor,
    time to pause.
    As the rain tapers off,
    and a holy hush descends.
    All is held captive in stillness.
    Post-storm rain drops
    patter on the deck,
    like the plucking of a guitar.
    Gentle music breaking the silent stillness.
    Peace restored.  
    It's still okay.
    A solitary birdsong
    echoes across the valley,
    as if to say,
    'Hello, is any-one out there?
    waits for our response.

    ©Gayanne Frater

    Image Car Headlights, Gayanne Frater

  • Thoughts on a Clay Pot: written for an agnostic friend

    Margaret Lyall 18 February 2015

    Thoughts on a Clay Pot: written for an agnostic friend

     

    I saw it on the Salisbury Centre stall.
    It was the shape that drew me - simple and symmetrical.
    Carefully I picked it up and turned it round
    to savour its perfection.

    Then came the shock, the disappointment,
    there was a blemish in the glazing.
    I chose another... and another…
    but none of them was perfect.

    And in that moment came the realisation
    that each one was unique,
    fashioned out of formless clay
    by the skill of the potter,
    kneading, pulling, gently stretching
    until finally moulded into a shape
    satisfying to its creator.

    What price now that self-same mass of clay?
    Almost worthless in its natural state
    but through the influence of those hands
    now able to hold within itself flowers - and water,
    giving the flowers strength to open  
    and display the fullness of their beauty,
    evoking a multitude of emotions in the human heart.

    Filled with primroses, a splash of yellow beauty
    pointing to the renewal of life and hope
    after the darkness and despair of winter.

    Or when filled with buttercups and daisies
    picked by the sticky fingers of a happy child
    and given to her granny whom she loves.

                                                                                          ***

    What is the chance
    of the atoms of that lump of clay
    organising themselves
    Into such a spatial arrangement
    without the potter?

    And which seems more incredible:
    that blind chance - or a Master Potter
    created the living beauty of the primroses
    and the love of the child?

    ©Margaret Lyall

    Image: In the Potter’s Hands, Steve Abbott

  • Letting Go

    The Rev. Gayanne Frater 13 November 2014

    Letting Go

    Letting go,
    hands open,
    a gentle push
    and a wicker basket
    carrying treasured cargo
    floats down the Nile.
    A mother’s courage writ large.
    Nearby,
    the young sentinel stands
    watching,
    waiting,
    praying,
    trusting
    in the unknowable.
    Mother and daughter
    let go of
    beloved son and brother
    for the sake of life,
    in the name of hope.
    Another woman,
    a stranger,
    different in faith,
    colour,
    skin,
    ethnicity and status,
    different in every way possible,
    shares Love’s heart.
    Stoops down to receive the wicker basket,
    the man-child within becomes her own.
    Mothers and daughters,
    letting go of our heart’s treasures –
    our children,
    our ways of being
    knowing,
    thinking,
    dreaming,
    becoming,
    hoping,
    trusting that in our letting go,
    even as our hearts break,
    life will continue,
    differently,
    unexpectedly.
    God, give us strength
    and courage
    to let go,
    to open our hands
    for the sake of life,
    in the name of hope.

    ©Gayanne Frater

    First published in the Women’s Study Centre Newsletter Vol. 4, no. 9 2014

    Image ‘Moses in the arms of his Mother’ Simeon Solomon

  • Road Trip Aotearoa

    Road Trip Aotearoa

     

    Heart song rises
    as landscape shifts and changes
    at each turn of the road.
    Eyes capture glorious beauty
    at rounded curves.
    Undulating hills of gradient colour
    give way to white faced cliffs.
    Tall deep green firs
    yield to soft hues,
    trees blush in near nudity.
    Autumn riches cede to Winter's stark nakedness
    as road heads south and eastwards.
    Sunlit toi toi
    glistening bright white
    sway in gentle breeze.
    Colour, strong and muted,
    ripple across nature's canvas like a river,
    A veritable gallery of
    Monets to Picassos and back again,
    appear as mile after mile traversed.
    Creation's cyclic song bears witness
    to the Artist's handiwork.
    This un-asked for exhibition of fine art
    triggers heart-bursts of pure delight,
    popping like fireworks against a darkened sky,
    creating momentary distraction
    from focussed road attention.
    Aotearoa,
    land of my heart, my home, my love
    your beauty touches the depth of my being
    and causes my heart to sing.
    Thank you.
     
    ©Gayanne Frater
    June 2014
     
    Image by Nick Frater
     

     

  • Bread and Wine

    Margaret Lyall 16 April 2014

    Bread and Wine

     

    1.
    An English cathedral on a summer Sunday morning.
    Sunlight shafting downwards through the stained glass
    onto the choristers, whose ethereal music soars heavenwards
    to the high vaulted roof above.
     
    The bishops and clergy are bedecked in their finery,
    rich reds, green and gold,
    dressed as if to attend
    a Celebration.
     
    The service proceeds to its climax,
    the congregation moves slowly forward,
    slotting into the spaces at the altar rail
    to receive the bread and wine,
    then tiptoeing back to their places
    humbled, yet uplifted.
     
    2.
    A Scottish Presbyterian Church on a Sunday morning
    at the sacred hour of eleven.
    The congregation gathers early.
    The atmosphere is grave
    as they sit in silent expectation.
     
    The elders enter, dressed in sombre colours,
    (save for one, an exiled Anglican
    in whose memory the idea of celebration still lingers on,
    and whose red pullover glows like a living ember
    in a dying fire).
     
    The service is solemn and dignified,
    sounding the twin themes of death and resurrection
    (though a stranger could be forgiven for thinking
    that to many present,
      only the first half of the message has got through).
     
    The miracle is
    that God is able to break through
    the trappings and the ceremony
    and reveal Himself
    to those who seek Him.
     
    3.
    A Methodist Chapel, small and friendly,
    still with a historical hangover
    from the temperance movement,
      so serving strictly non-alcoholic wine.
    And since that liquid
    has no anti-bacterial properties,
    the common cup has been reluctantly discarded
    in favour of glass thimbles.
     
    The service is simple but expressive,
      each person invited to the table, pew by pew,
    coming forward as a symbol of freewill,
    kneeling as a sign of unworthiness and reverence
    to receive the bread and wine.
     
    And afterwards, still kneeling,
    words to strengthen and encourage
    spoken by the Minister as he sends his flock
    back into the world to share with the world
    what they have received.
     
    4.
    Four friends meet in a house for a meal,
    brought together by a common grief.
    One, a non-believer, brings as a gift
    a newly baked loaf of bread.
    Another brings a bottle of wine.
     
    The meal is eaten, the wine is drunk,
    and memories of those not present are tenderly recalled.
    There is talking and listening,
    sharing and caring.
    God is never mentioned,
    but He is there.
     
    ©Margaret Lyall
    Image   Bread and Wine, Sr. Mary Stephen CRSS  
     

     

  • Look at me!

    Look at me!

     

    A flash of colour seen
    Attention captured.
    I turned and gazed.
    Gurgles of delight bubbling upwards,
    held captive
    to keep faith with others on holy retreat.
    This flower,
    bigger,
    louder,
    brighter
    than its siblings
    shouts her presence to the world.
    Look at me!
    See me!
    Attend to me!
    So I stood still
    attending to her beauty,
    marvelling at her fearless audacity
    to be 'more than'.
    And felt sheer unadulterated delight,
    until it broke through my self-imposed repression
    and disturbed the holy silence.
     
    As silence descended,
    settling as softly as a blanket on a sleeping child,
    questions shimmered across this still heart,  
    How come it is so easy to delight in the
    stunning distinctiveness,  
    outrageous beauty,
    exquisite simplicity
    of this flower,
    but so difficult to rejoice in
    our brothers and sisters who are
    just as loud,
    proud,
    and demanding
    of careful, prayerful attention?
    When did demure reticence became so highly valued?
     
    [Photograph & words by Gayanne Frater 24 January 2014
    Reflections from a January retreat 2014]
     
     
     
     
     

     

  • A Oneness

    The Rev. Dr. Paul McKeown 27 February 2014

     

    You said in passing
    that you'd washed your mother's hair
    that morning.
     
    I cannot now remember
    when we spoke, or where:
    sotto voce over coffee in the hall
    or poised on sofas in your lounge,
    your thin voice cracking
    with the stress of it all.
     
    And I confess, all else you said
    has seeped from mind,
    save that one lucent line.
     
    You washed your mother's hair.
     
    I see her now,
    inched to the edge of her bed:
    duvet down,
    pink flanellette sheets
    giving up the ghost of her warmth.
    Tired nylon nightie
    shapeless on her
    as you turn and cradle round.
     
    Bent double toward the steaming basin,
    she grasps the table
    stiff armed,
    and bows her head.
    Accepts the towel
    you bequeath upon her shoulders.
    Awaits her baptism
    with the blue plastic cup.
     
    Three times, four,
    then five you scoop and slop.
    Drenching her hair with wet warmth
    'til it sits sodden
    like soaked cotton.
     
    You stoop and lather next;
    fingers coaxing foam from nape to crown.
    Working to a oneness.
    Still lightly kneading,
    kneading,
    kneading
    through all the scalp.
    Long after all that's needful has been done.
     
    Both of you lost,
    And found,
    In the tender rhythm of touch.
     
    The moment stolen, savoured,
    stretched beyond saying:
    time finally calls time.
     
    You straighten up,
    fetch fresh water,
    And dip the cup again.
    Rinsing all but memories away.
     
    ©Paul McKeown

     

  • Breaking bread

    The Rev. Gayanne Frater 7 February 2014

    Breaking bread

     

    Here and now I hold my bread
    Alone at table,
    I gazed with delight at                     
    freshly baked bread.
    I savoured its colour,
    texture,
    fragrance
    and breathed in deep.
    Simple joy bubbled up from my belly,
    a smile broke out on my face,
    as I took bread,
    felt its warmth in my hands.
    Every pore in my body
    zinging with pleasure.
    I felt alive.
    In this moment of time,     
    I remembered words from
    morning prayer,  
    'here and now I hold my bread'.  
     
    An unspoken question
    gently threaded its way
    to the surface of my mind,
    “Will I ever break bread again?”
    Bathed in gentle grief,  
    This priest without a parish,
    remembered breaking bread
    at Eucharist.
    A past action  
    so it seemed.
    As I held myself in that moment,
    the Living Word
    tumbled into the holy silence.
    You break bread
    every time you hear someone into speech.
     
    Every time you speak from your true heart
    words of life and hope to others,
    you break bread.
    Every time your unfettered laughter
    ripples across a room,  
    you break bread.
    Every time you sing our song of Love
    in the company of others,
    you break bread.
    Woman of mine, you break bread,
    as you give life, my life, to others
    when fully alive.
    Yes, you will 'break bread' again.
    You never stopped.
     
    Here and now I hold my bread.  
     
         
    ©Gayanne Frater
    January 2014

     

  • Morning, Pluscarden

    The Rev. Dr. Paul McKeown 23 January 2014

    Morning, Pluscarden



    The day began without me;

    dozing ‘til the prayer bell summoned us from sleep.

    Dressed hastily against the cold, still unsure

    if I would join the monks at Terce; creep

    in quietly to the candled transept,

    or seek God alone.

    Hands thrust in pockets, I chose to keep

    an earthy sort of vigil: went to stand

     

    outside and tarry for the dawn.

    Found a hard-silvered world beneath a shepherd eye.

    Frostbound trees; tarmac stars glittering; the Abbey

    cradling worship. Pater noster, thy

    kingdom come. We watch and wait for it

    in silence broken

    only by a distant fox’s cry

    and honking geese, drawn south to warmer lands.

     

    Above, sister moon lingers;

    loath to leave and miss the birthing of the day.

    Together with the dawn, she weaves a mythic light

    that falls, Edenic, on the valley;

    blood red, as at the world’s beginning.

    And I behold it

    not like lonely Adam, fresh from clay,

    but Eve, who woke

    to wondering eyes and outstretched hand.

     

    ©Paul McKeown


    Image  Morning Moon www.2summers.net

     

  • Advent

    Margaret Lyall 25 December 2013



    Stress and distress, crisis on crisis,

    Mind, body and spirit can take no more.

    Utter exhaustion, energy finished,

    Pain and despair, darkness and silence.

     

    Then, piercing the silence, the cry of an infant,

    Heralding One who will suffer and die.

    Through His living and dying His love will be steadfast

    His Spirit set free and gifted to all.

     

    Can this really be true?

    Does it fit with experience?

    There's reluctance to believe such a staggering claim.

     

    And yet, to be honest, so often it happens

    In the depths of the pain, in the pit of despair...

       - through others' hands His hands stretch out to touch

       - through others' eyes His eyes look out in love

       - through others' lips His lips speak words of care...

    And faith is rekindled, in response to His words

    'What more must I do for you to believe?'

     

    Minds cannot comprehend;

    Truth is veiled in paradox.

    But every time doubt becomes stronger,

    A potentially deeper faith

    Yearns to reach out and embrace it.

     

    Like light piercing the darkness.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Tom Vaughan's Legacy

    The Rev. Canon Mark Pryce 26 October 2013

    Those before me knew
    how to stroke the steep sodden hills of Wales
    just enough to yield a little milk each day
    and sufficient mutton for stewing.

  • Unexpected Gift

    Unexpected Gift

     

    Peace.
    Deep peace.
    so often elusive,
    has snuck in unannounced,
    welcomed,
    embraced like a long lost lover.
    You simply notice
    one sweet day
    you are at peace.
    At peace with who you are,
    why you are,
    what you will be.
    Nothing has changed
    for at one level,
    the turbulence,
    uncertainty,
    not knowing,
    still reigns.
    But somehow everything has changed.
    Some kind of shift has occurred,
    deep, deep within.
    This surprising,
    delighting peace
    has slipped in
    without fanfare.
    It feels like it is settling in
    for the duration.
    I savour it slowly,
    welcoming its existence,
    marvelling at its quiet arrival
    and whisper a soft 'hello,
    it's good to feel you once again'.
    G. Frater   20 May 2013
     
    Gayanne Frater is an Anglican priest, counsellor, spiritual companion, educator and supervisor for HopeWork in Orakei. She enjoys writing of all kinds, reflecting deeply and creatively upon life, relationships and creation, dancing wildly, and laughing out loud with friends.
     
    You can also find Gayanne on Heartspace on Facebook. Please like her page.

     

  • Unfolding

    Unfolding

    Summer tales
    of Magi.
    Full moon’s whiteness
    on an unknown path.
    A stardust constellation of Pisces
    in the western horizon.

    A diffused scent.
    Holy,
    anointing.
    Frankincense
    purifies ‘always the same’ air.

    Pale bellied, frost lichen,
    tells a winter tale
    of an ancient abbey.
    Hewn, pitted stone
    holding memory.
    Still sheltering the ancestors.
    High crosses
    sing eternal tones,
    encircling the heart.
    Soul’s shielding.

    Weathered by many moons,
    sun’s brightness,
    storm’s turbulence
    is Jerusalem.
    He wept over her,
    lamenting paradise lost.

    Bab el-Khalil opens.
    Hoping in Hebron.
    Searching.
    Fragile
    with dreams of Abrahamic peace.

    Rumi tells tales of mystical love with God.
    Another year.
    Different this time.

    © Hilary Oxford Smith
    1 January 2013

    Image: Spirit-of-Jerusalem

  • A poem for Christmas, innit?

    Rachel Mann 25 December 2012

    A poem for Christmas, innit?

     

    'What rough beast...slouches towards Bethlehem...?'
     
    Elsewhere a king is fed grapes,
    fat as globes, wondering how
    it would feel to swallow
    the world in a single gulp.
     
    An emperor savours the scent
    of honeysuckle, studies his elegant
    hands, marvels at their power to condemn,
    compel, free. Indulges his greatest truth:
    I am a god.
     
    Men and women kiss, curse, cry, and spit,
    dream of riding eagle's wings.
    Somewhere a child lifts his head
    watches wild horses run, certain
    his legs would carry him
    to the birthplace of the moon.
     
    Here a mouth opens,
    thirsty to receive.
    The girl stares down at it,
    as if at a puzzle, shocked if this is the answer,
    stares in terror and wonder at what she has done.
     
    Image: Rachel Mann
     
    Rachel Mann is a Church of England priest, philosopher, author, poet and metal-head musician. We're delighted she's allowed us to post her latest poem on Moments.  
     
    Her new book Dazzling Darkness, the story of her journey from Nick, the wild living and self indulgent atheist to who she is now, is causing quite a stir. You can see Sande Ramage's review of that book here.
     

     

  • Eclipse

    ECLIPSE

     

    The Moon

    assails

    the Sun;

    a chill

    deathly

    darkness

    conquers

    earthly

    light and

    holds us

    hostage;

    the Sun’s

    corona

    standing

    steadfast

    as proud

    victorious

    pledge

     

     

    For information and pictures of the Sun’s corona:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona

     



    3 December 2012

    © the Revd James M McPherson

    Maryborough

    Queensland

     

     

    This poem was inspired by the total eclipse at Cairns, it began at 5.45am (Queensland time), with the full eclipse coming at 6.38am and lasting for two minutes before returning to partiality for another hour.

     

  • Acuity

    ACUITY

     

    two wonders of

    acuity, a third

    surpassing both:

    in an instant judge

    the diver’s acrobatic

    plunge; or catch

    the colours in

    the darting flight and

    know the bird; or

    catch the Paraclete


    19 November 2012

    © the Revd James McPherson

    Maryborough Q

     

  • Annunciation

    ANNUNCIATION

     
    The profound logic of God's symphony
    requires a new theme come to voice
     
    so Mary
    totally unsuspecting
    is ambushed by an archangel
    of polished speech and manner
     
    Gabriel's message
    a chord
    suspended
     
    God and creation stilled
    in one eternal breathless moment
    when all could founder
     
     
    until Mary's 'Yes'
     
     
     
    when God breathes
    the first enigmatic notes
    of a supernal melisma
    on the creative word
     
    Eden hopes for fruit again
    and beauty
     
    and squadrons of ever-hopeful angels
    venture forth
    soliciting grace notes
     
     
     
    © the Revd James McPherson
    Maryborough
    2009

     

  • On the matter of hermeneutics

      
    In this evening after eating out

    You serve us nightcaps as we talk
    Noting our lazy hermeneutics, how we cross
    Long sentences like little rivers winding between
    Precipices and over rocky underbellies
    Shifting light stones and leaving the heavy
    To curve our sheer flow into rapids.
     
    Tomorrow you will lead your congregation
    Our stories will fill your gospel
    Our rivers will run clear,
    You will lead them to precipices
    They will curve with you into rapids
    They will find they are walking on water
    In the morning you will show them what they always knew.
     
     
     
    (g) Erice C Fairbrother
    August 2009
     
      Note: The (g) is created by the author as an alternative to the copyright notation (c) to indicate that the content of this (or any other work so designated) is a gift to be used without permission but with acknowledgement of the writer.

     

  • Spirits' Rise

    The Rev. John Fairbrother 12 October 2012

    Spirits’ Rise

    Awe-struck wonder, restless life

    weigh lightly on

    gentle hearts, open minds,

    freeing spirits to rise.

     

    Wisdom quiet as snow

    settling, moistening, softening,

    renewing hardened ground,

    freeing stilled life to rise.

     

    Pukeko run, kotare seek, willows bend,

    flax and toetoe, greening

    nurture from gravity’s veins,

    freeing creation to rise.

     

    Essential Spirit weightless breath

    heralding sense divine,

    hold on life, release of mind

    inviting spirits’ rise.              

     

     

    Pukeko is a swamp hen;   Kotare is a Kingfisher bird; Toetoe is sedge grass, pampas grass.
  • The Order Of Things

    I

     Jack, eighteen

    died on his motorbike

    aneurism

    the Ugly Sister

    expert in camouflage

    and ambuscade

     

    after the funeral

    Lenny in the corner

    absent in his grief

    chain-smoking with his beer

    Joyce and the girls

    on the veranda

    with Chateau Cardboard

    watching the earth-shadow

    deepen into the velvet outback night

    and timeless stars

     

    it breaks the order of things

    for parent to bury child

     

    the order:

    grandmother die

    mother die

    daughter die

     

     

    II

     

    another fifteen years:

    Lenny’s “accident”

     

    when Joyce rallied

    she summoned the girls to plan

    how to hold the hectares together

    and divide them after she died

     

    death sweeps the old away

    to make room for the new

     

    running the property single-handed

    in the Big Dry

    for pity taking the rifle

    herself

    to the gaunt and hopeless stock

     

    it’s the order of things

    droughts come and go

    if you break first

    you lose

     

     

    III

     

    she was ready, her bags packed

    long before

    protesting fiercely

    ambulanced into the town’s “hospital”

     

    where the girls gathered powerless

    at the palliative bedside

     

    only my enemies should suffer like this

     

    praying for her release

    as if to break the Big Dry

     

    but the Ugly Sister

    owes no favours

    and kept her

     

    dangling

     



    © 2010

    the Revd James M McPherson

     

    Maryborough Qld

     

    St Francis famously (and rightly) refered to Death as "Sister Death". Experience shows she can be an ugly sister sometimes, or welcome, or beautiful, which I have explored in several poems. This one dates from 2010.

     

  • Holy Island

    The Rev. John Fairbrother 10 October 2012

    Holy Island

    Somewhere between feelings and intellect prayers may be born.

    Holy Island is a meditative reflection offered for personal and community use.


     

    Photo: Wikipedia     

    Holy Island

    Our Father in heaven

    The divine image beckons

    Hallowed be your name

    This place is sacred ground

    Your kingdom come

    Generous lives reveal love’s name

    Your will be done

    Through meeting minds, steady hearts

    On earth as in heaven

    Spirit and body becoming one

    Give us today our daily bread

    Love blesses life, knowing earth provides

    Forgive us our sins

    Restoring our being

    As we forgive those who sin against us

    For justice, forgiveness, to prevail

    Save us from the time of trial

    Preventing chaos that would lead to hell

    And deliver us from evil

    Defeating pain’s despair

    For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours

    Hope now with reason to serve, all due is given

    Now and for ever    

    Eternity here, always before

    Amen

     

    Holy Island was written as a response to days spent at Lindisfarne in 2007.

     

    © John Fairbrother

    10 October 2012

     

     

  • Shelling Prawns

    SHELLING PRAWNS

    The random scoop of raw prawns

    from the seafood counter all fearfully

    and wonderfully made; wrenching

    off their heads a posthumous violation

    as nothing to the trawler’s random

    scoop and hoist into the murderous air.

    The solemn truth that life survives

    by killing demands I honour those

    slain for my plate with heedful eating.

    And will you not, O God ‑ for solemn

    justice –when all things to their

    consummation come, specially honour

    those wild-caught or farmed then

    wrenched away for others’ food?

     

    My random scoop of raw prawns included some beautifully marked in a delicate coral pink, which triggered my initial reflection ‑ which subsequently began to question the justice implications of using Psalm 104.29-30 as a Grace:

    All things look to you: to give them their food in due season.

    When you give it to them, they gather it: when you open your hand

    they are satisfied with good things.                      Psalm 104.29-30

     

    St Francis’ Day 2012.

      

    © the Revd James M McPherson

    Maryborough Qld

     

  • Centurion

         CENTURION

         They fret and chafe and set us all on edge

    as their religious festivals approach.

    But this week, men, the gods have smiled on us ‑

    a stroke of genius, the Governor’s plan

    to set an execution just before.

    The northern rebel caught last night ‑ a gift

    to show how weak their worn-out “Lord of Hosts”

    who has no answer to our power of Death,

    our army or our Empire’s mighty gods.

    So clear the site, men, send the stragglers home.

    I’ll certify to Pilate all is done.

    Pax Romana sit semper eis.

     

     

    This exercise in irony explores the historical realities of that “Good” Friday, stripped of the wisdom of Christian hindsight. The Latin Pax Romana sit semper eis is deliberately modelled on the Latin liturgical greeting (Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum ‑ meaning “The peace of the Lord be always with you”). The phrase Pax Romana describes the two centuries of relative peace (from Augustus, 27 BCE, to the death of Marcus Aurelius 180 CE) which was sustained by Rome’s military might in its occupied territories such as Israel/Palestine.

     

    10 September 2012

     

    © Revd James M McPherson

    Maryborough Qld

  • Seam Opal

                                    SEAM OPAL

                                     Entering alone the silent

    otherness of the tunnelled

    world; with close intent

     

    exploring folds and lines

    of promise by practised eye

    perceived; picking away with

     

    guile honed by experience ‑

    then to surface brandishing

    my completed Sudoku

     

    4 June 2012

     

    © the Revd James M McPherson

    Maryborough Q

     

  • Spacious Living

    The Rev. John Fairbrother 13 September 2012

     A response to the Moments article (9 Sept. 2012) Getting to grips with space by The Rev Sande Ramage

     

    Spacious Living.

     Why do we tolerate, create, celebrate,

    engineer such noise

    materialise emotion’s freight?

     

    Why did Victorians in their towns

    create green commons

    parks, recalling downs?

     

    Why does hush of temple or

    cathedral evoke tremor,

    and soulful awe?

                                                                                                                                                                                       

    Why might prayer-like ‘inner space’

    be disturbed through

    given, fragile grace?

     

    Words birth life

    meaning’s sound.

    Thoughts release freed

    living space.

    Light relieves shadow’s

    darkening ground.          

     

  • At Bethany

                                    John 12.1-8

                                   Jealous of her authority

    bruised by her loss

    the Ugly Sister sat

     

    unnoticed

     

    through Martha’s

    busying and bustling

    and Lazarus’s

     

    grave jokes

    about keeping

    dead quiet

     

    until

     

    Mary’s entombment

    perfume filled the air

    and Judas spoke,

     

    when

     

    the Ugly Sister rejoiced:

    The hour is coming soon

    when I will nail him.

     


    NOTE

     

    This continues the “Ugly Sister” theme (as introduced in “The Order of Things”).

     


    31 March 2010

     

    © the Revd James M McPherson

     

    Maryborough Qld

     

  • Napping

    Napping

                           Easter Day 2012

                                   stretched out

    full length

    upon the pavers

    breathing her

    relaxed kelpie

    breathing, content

    to live with

    the doggy mysteries

    of door and window;

    dreaming perhaps

    of the world

    beyond the gate

    she’s visited

    often enough

    to yearn for more

    but lies so far

    beyond her doggy

    reach – unless

    the Daddy

    lift the latch

     

     

     

    6 August 2012

     

    © the Revd James M McPherson

    Maryborough, Q

  • Mr Wistful

                 Mr Wistful

    Mr Wistful? No
    not one of our
    regulars
     
    comes in often
    enough though
    sits there, shy
     
    easy not to notice
    between the lines
     
    deep in thought
    always looking
    a bit moonstruck
     
    as if he'd rather
    be somewhere
          else
     
    © the Revd James M McPherson
     
    Maryborough Q
     
    Written at Vaughan Park 19 September 2008
     
    Wistfulness is a melancholy born of displacement: either nostalgia, or loss of previous joy (the present has displaced the past); or melancholy born of hopefulness (the future will displace the past). In my VP Scholar's Lecture in 2008 (titled “A Wistfulness in Worship”), I explored a Eucharistic wistfulness. This poem was written at Vaughan Park at that time – a tentative resumption of my poetry-writing after a lapse of many years.

     

  • Sacred Kingfisher

    Sacred Kingfisher

    dressed
    to kill
    silent, still

    intent upon
    the watercourse
    beneath

    to see
    to swoop
    to seize

    and bring
    the prey
    up to eat:

    totemic

    ___________________________________________________________
    The Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus, fam Halcyonidae) is found in Australia and New Zealand and other areas of the southwest Pacific. I had never seen one until staying at Vaughan Park, when I occasionally saw one on a power line over the creek near the old homestead. Returning to Maryborough where I had moved as Rector in 2008, I have been delighted to see them occasionally in the surrounding bushland and wetland.

    Because of its quiet and solitary nature (although I once saw three or four of them skylarking in a tree), I feel quite an affinity to this particular kingfisher and am always delighted to see one. Hence this poem.

    Alan Fear (http://www.fluffyfeathers.com/index.php?showimage=926) has a delightful photograph of a Sacred Kingfisher on an electric wire – appropriate, since one of my parishioners calls them “electric wire birds” because that’s the only place she ever sees them.

    © the Revd James M McPherson

    Maryborough Q

  • Queen Charlotte Sound: On Retreat. A Trilogy.

    At Punga Cove

    Bees in beech,
    blackened trunks
    diffuse gentle light,
    raking steep sides
    of mountains resting
    in dark water,
    along
    narrow reaches.
     
    Bay to bay opening to sea and
    linking land.
     
    The quiet of sounds
    calling nature's name,
    evoking silence to meet
    my mind
    quieting
    my heart to hear
    the calm of life,
    along
    narrow reaches.
     
    Bay to bay opening to sea and
    linking land.
     
     
    A Lament for hope
    The hills fall into sounds,
    my heart sinks
    with sorrow;
    Leaves descending
    in water's dark depth.
     
    Anxiety depletes
    withering hope.
                    Silent sound
    absent God;
    earnestly, longingly, certainly
    called.
     
    For fish
    fallen leaves
    becoming   food;
    sorrow feeding
    unspoken depth.
     
    The Trees
    These priests stand together,
    each in need of the other;
    rooted in earth
    to freely move
    in air
     
    Grace the means of life
    rises within to inform
    heaven and earth
    of their need.
     
    These priests
    rooted in earth
    to freely move
    in air
     
    © John Fairbrother.
    Vaughan Park, June 2012.
     
    These poems are a reflection on memory of a five day retreat taken in the mid 1990's, while serving at that time in Wellington City as a Vicar along with various other diocesan roles.
     
    John, an Anglican priest, has been director of Vaughan Park since 2003.

     

  • Ascension

    Ana Lisa de Jong 30 May 2019

    Ascension

    Keep going, don’t give up”, I read.

    Yet keeping going today
    looks something like,
    closing and opening my eyes,
    and turning over to my other side
    in bed.

    Progress is sometimes measured
    in the smallest increments.

    My not giving up today
    was perhaps seen
    in the leap of my heart
    at the tui and fantail on the branches
    beyond my window’s ledge.

    Sometimes progress is measured by the reach of our vision,
    beyond the place we now rest.
     

    Stop, go.
    Who is asking that we maintain our pace?
    To rest is to regain the strength to rise.
    Before we release a breath,
    we must breathe in the oxygen we need.

    Yes, our hearts,
    they beat to the measure of our supplies.
     

    So sometimes not giving up
    looks like curling into a cocoon,
    and drawing the blankets in tight.
    We might need to tend
    and mend ourselves,

    as the cat that comes in from the night,
    licks at its wounds.
     

    The shelter of the cocoon
    provides the supports that aid our healing.
    Before we ascend,
    we must kneel and bend
    to get the uplift desired.
     

    No, we don’t give up,
    and keep, however slowly, making ground.

    But its not clear cut.

    Sometimes ascending looks a lot
    like slowing down.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong
    Living Tree Poetry
    Ascension Day 2017
    Image Ascension, Chris Koelle, by Faith, online magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America 

    "Begin again. Begin anywhere." – Anam Cara Ministries

  • Iona

    Iona

    Surging swell unrelenting
    Fisher's net cast from storm
    Colours fast in ceaseless shaping
    Shingle beach salvaged story's form

    At Sound edge beyond laird care
    Nature chronicled honour bled
    Hardened shadows of monks' last fear
    Evoking hopes unsaid

    Flesh enlivens ancient stone
    Cultures merge in worship's thrall
    Here monks communed prayed alone
    Searching souls repairing fall

    Story myth memory enduring
    Inspire pilgrims' leave of comfort's norm
    Silent Martin time-worn blessing
    Martyr's end for years forlorn 

    Hair's breadth of life and death
    Translucent sense awakening mind
    From sea to land creation's breath
    Unseen release from mortal bind

    ©John Fairbrother, Where gulls hold sway: the Vaughan Park years, 2003 – 2015: collected poems, 2015.
    Image Iona Waves, www.ionatrails.com



     

     

     

  • The Holy Broken

    Ana Lisa de Jong 28 August 2019

    The Holy Broken

    Forget the mask.
    Forget the forehead set.
    Forget the stiff upper lip.

    Let yourself tremble,
    shake like the windblown leaf,
    speak your truth.

    Though it might be to admit
    failure,
    fear or pain.

    Life has its vicissitudes
    and we can sometimes start to roll
    like a stone gathering speed,

    or may feel
    the pounding of waves
    as driftwood afloat on the sea.

    But forget the mask,
    and the face set like flint,
    the lips that do not move.

    Cast off shame.
    For the tears that fall
    are made to cleanse.

    The crutch leant on
    to stand,
    is to aid rehabilitation.

    And the heart that breaks open
    reflects the naked eye’s
    silent plea,

    that there be no incongruence
    between action
    and speech.

    Yes, forget the mask.
    And the poker set face,
    the mouth sewn tightly shut.

    Come out of hiding,
    for the world to see
    your naked face.

    The world needs us each,
    the strong and the often weak,
    the holy broken

    in community.

    ©Ana Lisa de Jong
    Image Valentin Antonucci www.unsplash.com

    'The ultimate truth of who you are is not
    I am this or I am that,
    but I am.'
    Eckhart Tolle

     

  • Moments: Making the House Ready for The Lord

    Mary Oliver 1 December 2019

    Moments: Making the House Ready for The Lord

    Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
    still nothing is as shining as it should be
    for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
    uproar of mice it is the season of their
    many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
    and through the walls the squirrels
    have gnawed their ragged entrances but it is the season
    when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
    the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
    while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
    what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
    in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
    up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
    come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
    the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
    that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
    as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

    ©Mary Oliver (Thirst) 2006
    Image Flickr

     

  • Moments: Grimy Windows

    Moments: Grimy Windows

    not guilt; not fear; but instead the gentle wonderment

    of sensing in myself that my own very being has a sense

    beyond my self; outside; in some vast frame

    which gradually drew me toward the grimy windows

    in the vast and granite keep of the Asylum for the Sane

    where a silent gentle harmony holds me. Still. Unto itself.

    *****

    inside, the stuff of conjecture, rumour, ridicule, rebuff;

    yet so compelling. Its eloquent harmony

    of silence brings a sweet order to the swirling

    non-sense of the fatuous self-serving racket

    here inside, and soothes my being into a peace and joy

    the Asylum may sometimes dampen. But not quench.

     

     

    the winsome charm of Wisdom, Love and Grace

    sustain me for my living in this space

    and make me yearn to join them face to face

     

    © the Revd Jim McPherson

    Image Christopher Sardegna, unsplash.com