the imperfect 10

It is a long time since I have written. However, reflecting on Sunday’s gospel lectionary reading brought me to this place:


they walk forgotten and at large

these strangers

this forbidden company

but who are you to name or un-name them?

the, not quite, perfect 10!

skin crawls,

scowls face them and fingers point

while their digits are subtracted from sight

but who are you to name or un-name them?

the, not quite, perfect 10!

and if they ask for a gift from heaven,

would you even hear their voices here?

your seclusion as effective as their exclusion

and who are you to name or un-name them?

this, not quite, perfect 10!

so nine walk away while one falls down

offers his praise to heaven.

can you blame them?

as you judge their backs and determine

they are, not, a perfect 10!

Love Letter

Written for Laura Butler and Richard Page on the day they married – sadly I forgot to take it with me when I conducted their service.


The butler turned the page and what was unveiled

was a love letter carefully written;

in the ink of the heart that flows forward and long,

narrating the journey of two into one.

The characters entwined in a lengthening line

with spaces marking their breaths,

transitions from friend to lover

then turns to this moment

where vows carefully spoken

bind both together as author

and if the butler should turn the page again

together they will write the story

each naked sheet covered newly adorned with words

the children of vows said today.

September 26

Today would have been the birthday of T S Eliot and I just happened to be at a lecture tonight on his work. Came home and wrote a very quick, and probably poor, poem in his memory. You may spot the obvious references to some of his work. I may one day spend some proper time make this a more worthy dedication. 


The day passes

but another year is not added

for three score years and ten and two

no more for you who lay so still

beneath the sheet of earth.


Drawn over you

the wasteland does not count

any longer from your birth;

no years add to the passing tale

of tears which baptise the stone in earth impaled.


Were you ever young

or always the old man stripped of hands

that could then grasp at guns?

Non-combatant in anything

but words to capture worlds.


The quartets formed

under fire watched skies

the giddiness of arriving

at the end of your beginning

the poet no longer aging.

in her memory

Each month I attend a great event called A Pint of Poetry – think the name captures what happens. People turn up, read poems, and drink beer. This month we meet a few days before Refugee week and members of the local Red Cross will be coming along. With that in mind we were invited to write something. In one of those instant moments this is what I came up with. It draws on several stories but tries to articulate experiences of fear, memory, escape, arrival, and asylum.


What would it be

to forget the scenes

inscribed on scrolls in my mind?

Malleable pages

on which ink will not run

as quickly as I fled from

where I’d hid my head

beneath the bodies of the fallen.


A film,

not narrated,

the soundtrack

not evocative.

It will not sell in shops of convenience

but is instead recorded in the dead;

the silence of the obliterated.


This film show,

repeated in nocturnal hours

where the curtains part

as my eyelids close

where there is no escape

for those who scream,

fall, silent,


a portrait capturing bodies,

not souls, 

stripped of names and clothes.


To flee,

to leave,

to question,

to receive

the indignation of a guard,


 to understand what stops my mouth,

stammers my words,

like the hammers that broke

the minds of those

stoved in by merciless bastards

still unknown.




where I remember mum

who miles away lays still,

years on,

bleached by the sun

after all that was done.


For all that intrudes on mine,

how am I now in her memory?


For more on refugee week

Three steps to Pentecost

Silence intimidates

breaks complacence

with inconsolable soundless shrieks

that terrorise

strip back courage to a foetal vulnerability.





the wind disturbs

then tongues burn with words

that turn

senselessness to meaning.



The fire licks

the tongue trips

over unfamiliar formulations

of syllables

that make a sentence with words

that sound absurd

except to those who hear their own parlance. 


The sense of words

Not written anything for a while and felt the need to put something down yesterday. So I offer some pretension derived from a discussion over Derrida. 



What words accumulate

waiting the furrowed attention of a reader;

their stasis –

a question.


How long must we live in presence and absence?

Will we never be realised,

fully known;

are we always to be deferred and left reserved?


Such is our sentence.

Read, un-read, forgotten. 

Jesus Appears to the Disciples




doors locked,

they hold the air in stagnant stasis

an undivided stench of defeat

despite whispers to the contrary


suffocated by panic

fear’s fingers close over mouths

around hearts

constricting hope


despite the breath she struggles

to breathe in to familiar lives





no wonder one escapes

to walk his fear in streets that remind

of what was taken, done, destroyed


does he sit in an empty tomb

a vacated womb

where, only remaining,

a vacant shroud,

scented with possibilities

lays still discarded on stone.


he alone

to watch and wonder.

reminding him the One is born

no longer here

but gone





the room is broken

by the presence of defiance

as scars declare

a disregard

for death’s mistaken power


Peace be with you


probing fingers penetrating scars

to hold doubt at bay





they are still prisoners

in a way





the fear in the one who was absent,

but present to the world,

returns in wonder

a reminder

that for all they have touched

been given

they still have not risked

the light of the world.



Day 47, Luke 24.1-12: The Testimony of Witnesses

Hear my idle tale.

I do not care about your disbelief,

test it if you must,

but know his body is not claimed by dust.


Here there is emptiness

that is not bleak despairing.

Instead hear the whispers of angels

who defy reason

and shake the foundations

that once made you secure

like the door that sealed the dead.


The unmovable is displaced,

as the sand is imprinted with studded footprints.


The Determination of the Rejected

Strange to write a poem inspired by Karl Barth – but this was. It drew on his reflections of the anointing of Jesus which so disturbed the disciples.



Who are the some that gather here

to question the ointment, and the tears,

of she who kneels at dusty feet

and prepares a bed of spices sweet,


yet soured by the salt of grief?

They bring neither freedom or relief

from death who stands with waiting word

as doubt deems plausible the absurd.


Death, the harbinger of decay,

awaits the whisper. Words betray

the secret fears of the devout

which rise amidst the violent shouts.