Monthly Archives: December 2011

Wedding Song (2009)

We are small on the back of the world
little you and little I
children of a far country,
foundlings in a strange land

but by the colour of your voice
and by the bareness of my feet
by the aching of our hearts
we found we.

Someone to cry with at the colour of the sky
someone to laugh with at these selves
and someone to remind us
when we forget

that the bowl of the sky is on our side
that the rushing of the waters knows our names
that the smell of the Fall has always been calling
“Come ye home, daughter and son.”

So take my hand, sweet friend
Among the birds,
the branches
And these beloved

We’ll start walking home today
and walk until our hair is grey.

Secret Ministry (2007)

I am a ghost story
A child’s abstraction
The ravens who feed her
The rain and the snow
The sun and the moon
I am the wind and philosophy
I am a myth
I am history
A book she reads
A mystery play
A story on the radio
The faerie footman
To the queen of the literal world
Where angels are more real
Than the six o’clock news.

Coming down the hall,
The Five o’clock haunting.
She does not comprehend what I do
Any more than I comprehend
What you do to me
When I cannot see what I am learning
Or where you are taking me
But you feed me every night
And wipe the shit from me
Wash me with warm water
And dressing me again for sleep.

Nelle In December (2008)

Wasteland baby
Far from me
Our second winter and cold is just cold
Unromantic but not fatal
At least not when we are huddled
One with the other
And we are huddled, under Heaven,
With the one who comes alongside.

And if I were alone I could run faster
I could get more shots off
I could pass undetected
And fit into smaller holes
I would live longer, and get my own way
And grow fat in the fearful parts of myself
A little kingdom well-defended
But if I were alone I would not be really living
Just eating
And running
And shitting
Because my life lies with you
To strive and to grow
To war and to discover
The conservation of all the things I love.

Kolkata (For Kyle and Ann-Marie) (2008)

Today is a bright and singing thing
Voices together we burn like stars
In the twilight of the spring.
A veil is lifted
As once was torn
And for one day the world turns as it ought
The will of the Father
Sets the pace of our hearts
And we remember the first and ancient things
Are as near as the rings on your fingers
That though the world has fallen
And we are a wandering folk
What was spoken over the waters
in the darkness before time
Has never stopped ringing true
And here today, in faith and hope and certainty
One small piece of Eden is redeemed
And what was divided is here made whole
Two embers joined and kindled
Dancing for a night in the Garden again
By the light of the Father
After a day of naming animals.

These two are one, and flying now
East from the altar
Not in exile this time
But in obedience
Lighter by a name
Heavy with our blessings
And never any more alone.
The old home, and the old days
Left in the care of the Father
To cross the sea by night as one.
May the honeyed moon
Shine golden on your flight
To Kolkata
On wings of God.

Living Room (2007)

In a city by the water
In a kingdom by the sea
Eight bare souls
Of a body on its knees
And a family far from home.

A week is a long time
When living is so large a thing
All this laughter and all this war
And these many days to come undone
But people here know how to sew.

There’s no building He’ll call home
No four walls command Him rest
But in the circle of our bodies
He makes His temple
And calls it good

With foundations sure
And steady walls against the night
A roof for rain to drum against
Making music of adversity
And windows stained with honesty.

So this we weekly build
A place for Him to stay awhile
A place to set down burdens
And loosen armor
And set aside our camouflaged fatigue

To bring the weekly wounds out into the air and light
To tend with steady gaze
To wash with tears of recognition
To bind up with wisdom
And share one good meal in a lean seven days.

To gather together our weekly joy
As children, empty our pockets
Make a pile of small treasures on the floor
To share and to rejoice in
And drink and swim in the little loveliness

Of the body as it should be
Of the city under God
In the city by the water
Made of eight bare souls
Made family.

Shepherds (Christmas 2007)

And it came to pass on Christmas Eve
That he was thinking of
The shepherds of the hard-bitten hills, who
East of their lovers
West of their friends,
Spent sacred days in ugly places
Working small cures for small tragedies.

Far from the temple and far from the book
Forgotten of the warmth and the table
The bed and the gentleness of women
The night is heavy, outside Jerusalem
But heavy to breaking
And inside was light and singing.

Suddenly were new people
Full of otherwordly tenderness
Alien joy from outside the universe
Saying new words with tongues of fire
It broke our hearts wide open
And we were afraid of Christmas.

Frei (2006)

The sub-urban crawl
Of a metal tube
Through the under-city dusk
Trips to a halt.
The voice on the intercom tells us it is so,
But will not answer why.
So we whisper “suicide”, to ourselves,
For eye contact is responsibility
We massed begin to stamp and huff;
Cattle spooked and timbers creaking:
A hot lightning in a waiting air.

“Get these people moving!”
Comes someone’s voice
To someone else.
“The eyes on the ads will follow them
Until they, breaking, see
And tear them from the tunnel sides,
Find beneath a dirty wall
And a promise broken.”

The voice is right.
Panic would rise in our throats,
With memory of open spaces.
A hope and a rage,
To escape the news, and the world for sale.
Out from between the headphones,
Out into conversation,
And the brighter air.
Room to believe
That life was not always thus,
An underground pursuit.

And in that beating moment,
In the chop and spray of breakdown
Comes clarity, for a moment
And a remembrance of things past.
That they dragged us from the womb
And put a pickaxe in our hands.
That they gave us coveralls for swaddling clothes,
Steel toes for a cradle bed,
And that “don’t you know we’re at war?”
Was the only lullaby we heard.

The war was for bread, they told us,
But we ate and we ate and we ate,
And still our spines poked through our shirts,
And we would count our ribs
And dream we would wake one morning
With one less,
And a help-mate in its stead.
To share this double yoke,
And maybe fill these silent, empty houses
As they stand
Soundless and sparkling,
scrubbed and salient
And sterile as the damned.

Barren as the godly were clean.
For so they said, and told us
That toil was righteousness;
That virtue meant to be always running;
That weariness was a crown to be worn;
That fear was the healthiest state,
And that work would make us free.

They took us by the arm
And led us to the men who slept in doorways,
And the women who sold their flesh,
The shaking and the insolvent,
And called it judgment for stillness.

They rewrote our history while we were at work.
As we grew old in the mills,
And walked home bent under sacks of gold,
To cemetery houses,
To dream of the mountains and the woods
They promised they would take us to
On the vacations that never came.
But our only respite ever was
When we forgot ourselves.

So to steal sleep from terror,
We ran until our feet bled.
And bent over tiny labours
Till, with calluses for fingerprints
We could steal with impunity.

Then came again the subway voice:
“A woman here to man the furnace,
A man to grind the plowshare!
Leave your children to our keeping
Their ways no longer concern.
Your substitute is on her way;
We need every body on the line
In case, in case, in case.
The factories must not be ceased
The sky must yet be covered,
For we fear the dark of night,
And we are better educated than you.

So get your heads down, Because
The middle airs are full of steel,
And the sun has turned against you.
Take your music intravenously
And be sure your clothing won’t impede
Take your meals in bags and quickly,
And hold not your families dear.
Because when that whistle goes
Those who weren’t quick
Will be those who are dead.”

Thus we were each made blind and fools of,
And learned to spend our days
In a shark-life, free of silence.
That we might not be caught unready
When the end was named.

And how could we disbelieve?
When everywhere the mad and dying were thick as flies.
But we never could keep ourselves alive.

And finally it was
That though we could not see it,
The blank orange night was rolled away
And the unnamed stars fell like apples.
The maker returned to the made
With fire and with word.

He sent bare hands from heaven,
To we the unbeknownst,
And with shaking fingers,
He tore us from the jaws of the earth.

He shucked us like peas from our efficiency,
And from our broken shackle-selves
We watched him set about his work again,
With terror in our breast
That was sweeter than happiness.

We saw the horizon stretch back, unknowable,
Under a crystalline night.
We saw the woods deepened
And the mountains surge.
We saw the rivers bled clean,
And the cities made to shine.
The life in every thing returned,
And the first things remembered.

He came to us under heaven,
To ease our fingers from the trigger.
To wipe the sweat from our brows,
To make us sit on the grass again,
While he took our feet in his lap
To wash away the blood and cancer,
And to bind away the years.

When for the last time they raised
The sword in the wilderness
It was not against the frail and wailing we
But against the red right hand
The swiftest parry shattered it
And from the shards,
Ringing on his anvil-knee
Our thrice-forged lord
Wrought a ploughshare for me
And set me loose among the furrows.

He took our wrappings, tight and garish,
All the heavy, cutting things.
The clothes we wore to steal at night,
The chains from off our necks
And all the ways we sold ourselves
“I would have bought you naked.”
He spoke, and burnt away our shame
Until it was forgotten.

When we had each escaped the tunnel,
When we were fresh beneath the sky,
Our wrists and ankles unencumbered
His voice came again.
“You were not born to labour
But you were born to craft.
I have work to fit your hands to
According to your purpose,
And the desires of your heart.
For they were never two things.
So tie your hair back,
Bare your arms.
Bend your mind to where it rests
And with the tools I made your hands to grip
Work as I have made you free.
For when I forged the world
And when I wrote your being
It was that you might enjoy it.”

Martha and Mary (2006)

Nobody starves to death at the feet of God
Though they kneel in ugly places
Poor and crowded houses
Or in rooms of mental illness.

Their hearts break in their chests
And their eyes are burnt from their skulls
They go mad from discontentment
And die of wonder

But no one starves at the feet of God
They are murdered and chastened
And chased by voices
Run all night

But no one starves at the feet of God
The light is too strong
And the wind is too joyful
And no one dies until he speaks.

Underground Train (2005)

Dirty city, pale and weary
Running home with
salt-stained flanks
Sealed and fluorescent
Huddled bodies riding home
To the strains of lonely orchestras.

We need a cup of tea
We need some new music
We need to go swimming
We need to go to heaven
We need more conversation
And less of the silent underground,
Pretending to sleep.
We need the voice of God
And pulling together
To be less afraid
And more honest.
We need warm rain and sun after
Little frogs and clear star light
More running and less reason
We need someone to take care of us.
We need Aslan and Aragorn
Gandalf and Obi-Wan
Dumbledore and Atticus Finch
and Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting”
We need the right word and eyes in the night
Deus ex Machina and the door kicked in by the right person at the right time
Old stories and a known future.
We need what we loved at five
We need the spring of story and the undying land
We need the maker of the woods
and the writer of the sun.

Invocation (2006)

Sing, Muse, in the dark and easygoing
For there are holes in my understanding
And love is never any easy fit
I have ever heard thy sisters’ voices
Ringing siren-sweetly in daily ears
And I have followed and done their bidding
Heeding exhortations with leaping heart
To fight and to love with all abandoned
To die readily and to die often.
I have swallowed fire, made the rashest vows
And all the ghostly daggers taken up.

But as of yet I have not died well,
My enemies yet many and vital
The day is long and the nights are sleepless
It was not thus before thy sisters’ song.
I lived and loved and longed and died enough
Not knowing I should have been feeling more
That there was precedent for emotion
And that I should have been disappointed
I did not know what disappointment was
Until they taught me dreams – until I read.

For lo! I have been made literate
And cannot find my way to Lethe
I lived in a better world for a time
And I cannot forget the scent of it
It lingers on my clothing, on my mind
And turns a grey world greyer in contrast.
A sunset never moves me as described
My day is never as full as story
And I can’t love my Baby like I should.
My God is silent, a distant father
As grey-eyed, wise Athena never was
My wars are small and civil, and, O Muse
It’s never dulce et decorum est
But always nine hells with three lost stellas.

Erato perished with the Virgin Queen
Calliope fell singing at the Somme
Clio, too, in the War to End all Wars
Euterpe was struck dumb by its sequel,
Terpsichore lay lame on her sister’s grave
Polyhymnia was starved at Dachau
Melpomene drained dry by the poets
Urania became a battlefield
Thalia froze to death in a cold war
Before the Helicon spat you forth and ceased.

So sing, youngest sister, the tenth and last
Born of holocaust and fear-mongering
Atom’s daughter, revolution’s scion
Handmaiden of the age after reason
Make speed to me on wings of irony
Bearing cynicism as shield and laurel
In arms long and white, smooth and marble-cold
With raised eyebrows and lips carved ne’er to laugh.

Bend low and sing a new excitation
That I might transcribe fresh truth, new knowledge
Where the pieces do not fit. (for the pie-
ces never fit)
A meter for ignorance and falsehood
A couplet for delib’rate deception,
Narrative gaps and holes in understanding
Disjoint and disjuncture be the scansion
And the last, best ending is none at all.
Sing me a fluorescent tale, illumine
But do not warm me, Muse I pray thee
For I have never been warm not reading
Bring light without shining, white without glow
Only a right reflection of my days
Or I swear I will never read again.

Let me lead not others to bitterness
As I myself have been embittered, and
O Muse of the last thirty years or so
Muse of fallen towers, sister slayer
Salter of fields, the bane of fantasy
Muse of fluorescence, never-forgetting.
Let us never forgive, much less forget
What was done to us [what she did to me]
While we were waiting there for catharsis
While we were waiting there for poetry.

Last daughter, alone, sing over the world
Gird me now with wit and pessimism
A broad, written shield, a spear stained with ink
Lock my cooling heart in theory’s breastplate
And hide my face beneath objective helm.
For there are lovely dragons in my path
And six thousand years to burn to the ground
And rebuild again, oh but true this time
For beneath my helmet are eyes to read
Between every line in every heart
Take up with trigger fingers weapon-pen
Let every disappointment be revenged.