though it is not your knee or elbow that is grazed
but your life erased
by what you heard but only saw a fraction of a second
before the moment

no more time passes.

Clocks stop
announce in eleven bells
that hell
waited in sodden land,
an acid shed,
a living room or factory floor
that tore

So the fallen civilian
beside the soldier
in a private non commissioned marriage
lay together wondering,

when November
rings her next eleven eleven
and clocks stop beating hearts
it starts

the impatience for peace.

Beauty makes me cry (Attempts 1 and 2)

Today A Place To Bury Strangers released their new ep. This will mean nothing to most of you but they are one of those bands who, no matter how hard I try, I can never hear loudly enough! I have seen them live on several occasions and I have bought their music in all formats, including vinyl because I want to experience the full velocity of their music.

The power of this band, after the style of My Bloody Valentine, is that they have realised that guitar noise can be transcendent. To be assaulted at an aural level, for me, takes me to a place that is truly beautiful. If this means nothing to you I apologise; if you know what I am trying to say, read on!

Beauty makes me cry (1)

The beauty of white noise

sound that bleeds tears

that crashes with a kiss into the senses

leaves them devastated and



Tears tell the tale.

What I hear is beauty, perfect,

yet wanting.


Aural pleasure inadequate in tormented volume,

crushing mind until tears surrender

the disappointment that this will never be enough.


Nothing can carry the perfection.

Amplifiers capitulate

collude with aural submission

so neither can share in the absolute that is promised.


Let the crash of sound obliterate my senses

until every cell has scaled the pinnacle of pleasure,

and beauty makes me cry.


The fulcrum of eternity,

the first sounds of time and space,

found in pastoral voice

behind cascading obliteration.


White noise, home of my birth, sound of the womb,

where beauty makes me cry.

Beauty makes me cry (2)

To taste noise, perfection personified,

where voice and aural architecture 

collide in a precision of beauty.


Sound abandon reverberates in perpetuity

as the accretion of distortion becomes unassailable delight.


This is beauty,

the beauty that makes me cry.


It takes my senses, my aural capacity

and assaults my ears my heart

narrating devastation disappointment loss.



This is beauty,

the beauty that makes me cry.


A Place to Bury Strangers: The Falling Sun




OK I know the golden rule that you shouldn’t e mail etc when you are in a bad mood. Well today I have been pushed over the edge. Having read endless drivell from one particular pastor over many months I finally broke.



The fool takes the stage,

begins to parade,

what he thinks is right,

be it crass and absurd,

he talks with authority,

self appointed as one,

who stands over the text,

he’s the master, not son.


He waves his penis,

to prove his own worth,

then it’s tucked to the left,

he leans right and is curt

as he cuts off suspicion;

a circumcision of mind,

he rants and he raves

and won’t be denied.


He speaks to the men,

He’s their father and lord

Oh sorry that’s God

but just let them conform

to a stereotype

he has written himself

claimed from a bible

he never really heard


Boys now stand up

and women bend down

your husband has spoken

now give him the crown

Cos the pastor is right

He tells you to hanker

after the god he’s designed

but the pastor’s a ………


Let God stand before us,

in unprecedented grace

who valued each woman

did not treat her as slave

but listened to sermons

of crumbs and in oil

the grace filled moments

that men couldn’t spoil



Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s New Year

With every power for good to stay and guide me, 
comforted and inspired beyond all fear, 
I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me, 
and pass, with you, into the coming year.

The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening; 
the long days of our sorrow still endure; 
Father, grant to the souls thou hast been chastening 
that thou hast promised, the healing and the cure.

Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving 
even to the dregs of pain, at thy command, 
we will not falter, thankfully receiving 
all that is given by thy loving hand.

But should it be thy will once more to release us 
to life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine, 
that which we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us, 
and all our life be dedicate as thine.

Today, let candles shed their radiant greeting; 
lo, on our darkness are they not thy light 
leading us, haply, to our longed-for meeting? –
Thou canst illumine even our darkest night.

When now the silence deepens for our hearkening, 
grant we may hear thy children’s voices raise 
from all the unseen world around us darkening 
their universal paean, in thy praise.

While all the powers of good aid and attend us, 
boldly we’ll face the future, come what may. 
At even and at morn God will befriend us, 
and oh, most surely on each newborn day!


Most of you may know that Bonhoeffer was executed later that year in a German concentration camp. This translation was taken from the1953 version of Letters and Papers published by SCM and translated by R Fuller.

For those able to read German I’m grateful to http://citizenleauki.joeuser.com/article/337894/The_Power_of_Prayer for his copy of the German text below. 

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
Behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
So will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
Und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
Noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last.
Ach, Herr, gib unsern aufgescheuchten Seelen
Das Heil, für das du uns bereitet hast.

Und reichst du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern
Des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
So nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
Aus deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
An dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
Dann wolln wir des Vergangenen gedenken
Und dann gehört dir unser Leben ganz.

Lass warm und still die Kerzen heute flammen,
Die du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht.
Führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Wir wissen es, dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
So lass uns hören jenen vollen Klang
Der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
All deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen,
Erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist mit uns am Abend und am Morgen
Und ganz gewiss an jedem neuen Tag.



Following on from last week’s poem on the Annuciation here is another (rushed) new one on the Nativity. Forgive what seems a dark telling – it is probably an over-reaction to the latent nativities from schools and cards that plague my memory.

It often seems to me that Nativities are pregnant with everything but the reality of incarnation!


contracted strains

declaring pain

that will not ease with words;

nor does promise,


the threat unfolding here


choral angels


this woman’s waters breaking,

panting, pauses,

cries, and shouts:

the glorias of the evening


fingers fumble at the air

lips sip at life:

a baby suckles

at the body

of the girl

who cried in strife


nativity telling,

the first staging here,

of the pieta foreseen;

holding the baby,

Madonna-our Lady

knows; so let it be.


so men discard

on Christmas cards

the anticipated danger

Mary giving birth

to God,

so inciting threats of murder.




I did not expect to expect

Not sure I will make it to Poetry and a Pint tonight but in a vague hope I penned this little poem about Mary, just in case. Written quite quickly, so apologies; I wonder what she’d make of it?


I did not expect to expect


I did not invite

a sheeted angel to my bed;

as he winked his wings,

I heard whispers in my head


I did not enquire

what his intentions were

he didn’t try to overpower,

nor my sex stir


I did not deny

through subtle remonstration

the gracious divine

in angelic visitation


I did not imagine

this womb, barely reborn

would soon harbour a secret

that would cover me with scorn


I did not renounce

the possibility of birth

instead I joined Elizabeth in

incandescent mirth


I did not expect,

Did not expect to expect;

I did not expect,

Did not expect to expect.


HIV and Telling Stories Differently

I don’t normally post anything here but poems; a sort of laziness really. However, following a conversation on Twitter (thanks to @JamesPrescott77 and @boudledidge) this morning, and with World AIDS nearly with us, I have reproduced part of piece I wrote for Epworth Review. I offer this for your reflection:

Three visitors call on the home of Sarah and Abraham.[1] They bring a promise and a threat: a promise of life and history, a narrative that keeps a future for Sarah and Abraham and their descendants. And yet they also bear another story, a promise of death and destruction to two cities. Both of their promises become true in the context of the biblical narrative and yet to what extent their promises become normative for the lives of women and men through the world can only be contextually determined.

Let me tell the story differently.

Three visitors arrive at the home of an elderly couple. They have been married for many years but they have never had children despite their hopes. Their land will one day pass to other kin, or strangers, because they do not have a child who will hold and care for their land, and keep their name upon it. These visitors, though, bring a word; a word of hope it seems. The three visitors tell the father and mother of no-one, that they will be the father and mother of a great nation; they will have descendants greater in number than the stars, or the grains of sand in the desert places. Such words seem impossible. Such things do not happen for people as old as Abraham and Sarah.

But this is not the end of the news they bring, for there is another word that must be heard. What is that word? These three visitors who have enjoyed the company of Abraham and Sarah have a journey to complete. God has sent them to bring judgement on two cities that have turned themselves against God and his ways. These cities have given themselves up to decay and they will be wiped from the face of the earth; they will be the dust as their bodies crumble, and decay in the earth. These three visitors are challenged by Abraham: surely if there are innocent people there you will not destroy? The bartering over life continues until there is accord and, glimmer of hope arises before them on their departing horizon.

Two of the travellers arrive in a city but their night, there, is a night of hate, abuse and threats of murder. In the home of Lot and his family, they are berated by men who come to seek them, who want their bodies for sex. Lot offers his daughters to the crowd, to save the men from rape. Better an innocent daughter is raped to appease the cries of the crowd than these men are subjected to the demands of the city’s men.

But it is too late, the judgement is set. The lives and the cities will be forfeit, wiped from the earth; these will be the dust of the desert earth.

Are the women, the wives and the daughters of these baying men guilty in the eyes of God? Are they not counted amongst those that were needed to bring hope to the city and deliver it from destruction?

Would you really want to welcome these visitors?

HIV un-holy trinity

You wandered in, talked of life,

before creeping up on unexpected hosts

infected husband, daughter, wife,

and left a trail of mounting ghosts

whose innocence was not discussed

as you traded lives, with chosen sons,

who bartered, begged, and reasoned

‘til the cities fell at your behest

and bodies became just dust and sand

lying in the desert ground.


Let me tell you a parallel narrative. She is 13 and living in a small town. Families here are not what they once were. There was a time when there were couples and children everywhere; grandparents, parents, children, uncles and aunts all side by side. But then visitors came to the town. No-one saw the visitors at first; they were very discreet. They were carried here with some of the men after they returned from months working away. The visitors made their home amongst the villagers, but while they were always there no-one ever saw them. They hid in the most subtle ways and just got on making new acquaintances and settling in to people’s lives and no-one seemed to mind. The villagers fed the visitors, but did not notice any more food being eaten; they sustained the visitors but did not even notice what was being taken. Then some of the men became ill. As they tired the visitor’s faces began to show on the bodies of the men. Lesions started to trace the identity of the visitors and slowly the men began to die. It did not take a long time for the women to realise that the visitors had made their home within their bodies too. They’d never invited them to stay, but they had forced themselves upon them, infected their lives and now children were fading too.

In a generation a town had seen its people becoming the dust of the desert and now there were no longer grandparents, and parents and children and aunties and uncles in abundance. Now there were spaces and dust where bodies had once moved. Now there were men who called for the bodies of virgins, so when Lot offered his daughter, just 13, there was an uncle in the crowd who wanted her. A virgin, and negative, she would be his redemption, his salvation and safety, but he is sick and she will be soon.[2]

[1] Cf. Genesis 18.1-19.28. While I will not address it directly here, as reader, you might want to read on to the end of chapter 19 as it implies a complexity of incest that is woven in the early Hebrew narratives. To what extent such stories become formative narratives for myth and superstition around HIV and AIDS is unknown and I do not wish to attempt to address that connection here – only to raise it as a question.

[2] For work on the abuse of girls, infection of wives by husbands in Africa see: UNDP & UNAIDS, Factsheet: UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, Geneva: New York, June 2001 which highlights, ‘Many men accept the myth that virgins can cleanse a man of HIV and AIDS so girl-children are subjugated to sexual violence in public and in the home, by both strangers and relations.’ p.15-16. This is a contributing reason as to why in Southern Africa young girls are four times more likely to be get HIV and AIDS than boys of the same age. (Source Dube, 2008). The UNDP Report goes on to say that 80% of women in stable relationships are infected by their spouses who are not faithful. p.22. This report, and others, are drawn on by Dube, M.W., The HIV and AIDS Bible: Selected Essays, Chicago: University of  Seranton Press, 2008; A further source is Cimperman, M., When God’s People Have HIV/AIDS: An Approach to Ethics, Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005 who covers again the statistcal information in Ch. 1.