Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!

First, I am sorry it has taken so long to recover (if we have recovered!) from moving house; nevertheless the title above is not a whoop of celebration but clue to a concealed theme in this poem:

Elpee! Elpee! Elpee! the starlings cry
wheeling home in evening sky,
the folding flock outspread and high
seems beautiful and black.

Beauty yes, and black below,
but could we fly, then we would know
the colours that the sky can throw
on wings that throw them back.

And could we see with starling’s eye
the beauty of the fading sky
fall on each feather, wing and eye,
then would we learn, and would we sing,
Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!
and would we wheel and would we wing
the cosmic dance, the wheeling ring,
of birth and death and everything,
nor know the reason why?

A distant longing draws the flock
from city roof-tops where the clock
chimes evening hours.
A strong force binding mate to mate,
which narrows wider gaps;
a wary, weaker sense prevents,
when bird flies close to bird,
the flock’s collapse.

Each fluttering bird a wheeling heart –
a fundamental part – in one great family,
Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!

Sadly I can explain none of this today as I am sat at a fading computer far from home unable to recharge it. I will just say this, it is a picture which is better seen from another direction entirely: eddies in the stream (to follow).

Marius’ Mules

‘Lent’ comes from an Anglo-Saxon word,
lencten meaning springtime,
lengthening days.

As winter stores run short,
the last tightening of the belt
before the earth sprouts again
and birds return,
we look to seed-time.

Buried seed rises, life resumes,
seed-time leads to regrowth,
as regrowth leads to harvest,
and God who gives the seasons,
turns seed-time celebrations
to the greater one of Easter.

We mark this time of self-denial,
the desert of temptation
and the journey to the cross,
with Jesus’ words:
If any would be my follower,
let him deny himself,
take up his cross and follow me.

Then they heard Him differently,
not as we do now, but then.
Now we sometimes change the words
to include men and women,
but His listeners thought of men.

They saw lines of Roman soldiers
with crosses on on their backs,
their nickname, ‘Marius’ Mules’
from the general who led them
and made them wear cross-shaped packs
weighing over sixty pounds.

The pack was called a sarcina,
a military marching backpack,
but in their slang it was furca,
the word for two pronged forks,
for crucifixion crosses and punishment yokes;
furcifer was slang for jailbird,
gallows material.
All a man needed was tied, or hanged,
on his furca,
his cross.

There is more.

Soldiers can’t be individuals,
self-seekers or go-getters,
but a troop with a leader;
holding together as one.
Legionaire, centurion,
cook, quartemaster,
introvert, extrovert
or barrack-room lawyer;
soldiers are part of a company,
one esprit-de-corps,
watching each other’s backs,
carrying their full packs,
denying personal wants
for the sake of the legion,
following the one in charge.

We know our King was crucified,
His hearers, then, just heard the call:

If any would be my follower,
let them deny themselves,
take up their cross and follow me.

What was Jesus saying to that first century crowd? Many were waiting for a Messiah, a warrior in Joshua’s mould, who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel and David’s throne. Here was a stirring speaker with Joshua’s Aramaic name, speaking in soldierly language, calling for followers. Was He speaking to them?

We read His words knowing He was crucified, and interpret them differently, but so would his first-century listeners just two or three years later. It is as though He was not talking to that crowd, not then, not there, but to that crowd as it would be when His work was done.

John (ch.6:15) described how, having heard Him speak, with their high expectations they tried to force Him to be their king. Instead they gained the Servant King who so loved the world that He came as His own Son so they might have eternal life.

We often only understand God’s words and actions after they are fulfilled.

Delirium on entering a Dark Tunnel

Darkness.
.      Swirls of colour.
.           Fear – past and present fear.
.             Whirling colours, flecking in the dark.
.                    Fear of the darkness?
.                              Or the light?
The Voice,
.     soothing, calming,
.         shadows fold, light fades,
.           one into another,
.              into another,
.                    calm, quiet,
.                                    sleep.
.     Light,
.            the Voice,
.                      movement, twisting;
.                                gibbering swirls, sound and light,
.                                                          being lifted, turned;
.                                                Heat, other Voices,
.                                      pain.
.                   fear,
.        pressure,
.     the calm, protecting Voice;
.     warmth, calm, the Voice,
.        folding, fading light
.           into dark,
.                  gentled
.                            shades;
.                                      sleep.
.                   Darkness.
.     Flecks of light,
.shapes, sounds, fear.
.Fear in the Voice, fear and concern;
.Pain in the Voice; fear in the Voice,
. yet it helps, it helps.
.      Pain, the Voice –
.         safety,
.                dark,
.         comforting dark,
.      a near and far tunnel of dark.
.      Fear, sounds, drowning the Voice,
.         burning in the darkness,
.            fearful light,
.                  a tunnel,
.                              light.
.     Pain,
.           light,
.                 brightening, not paling.
.                           Loud meaningless sounds,
.                                           painful light,
.                                                      the tunnel
.                                                                      leading on,
.                                                                                             away.
.      Loud meaningless sounds,
.         pain, loss, pain, distress;
.            the Voice crying – more crying.

“Mrs. Smith, you have a beautiful baby boy.”
.     Warmth, the Voice, comfort, safety;
.                 The Voice has loving eyes.

Saturnalia

‘During my week the serious is barred,
no business allowed,
drinking and being drunk,
noise and games and dice,
appointing of kings,
feasting of slaves,
singing naked, clapping of tremulous hands
and the occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water.’
–           Cronos, in ‘Saturnalia’ by Lucia of Samosata, 167-175 AD.

When curtained night is closest drawn
and daylight hours are short,
the Yuletide solstice warns of frost
and summer days are long since lost,
and gloves and scarves are bought.

When autumn’s leaves are blown away,
when longest night means shortest day,
and winter deepens, cold and grey,
and dark clouds veil the dawn,
then, in our coldest, darkest times
we light our days with song;
our glasses raise among the show
of holly, fir and mistletoe,
to cheer the days along.

And did you see our seedtime feast?
and in those measures hide your yeast,
and see the harvest grain increase,
and wine-press autumn’s later lease,
a glowing, golden song?

Saturnalia’s grinning orgy,
the High Lord of Misrule,
the prancing, dancing Feast of Fools,
our mingling right and wrong?

Our pagan village feasts and fétes
that close-pursed lips and high-held hates
see as our faults and so mistakes
the courage in our song?

And did you see our courage then?
your children singing in the dark?
And did you give your heart to them
who loved the One they did not know;
and bowed to You they could not see
and gave another name to You?

Did you not know Me then,
my children, singing in the dark?
I who made your solstices, your moons,
who threw the wheeling stars,
the tides, the seasons, day and night.

You who sang the seasons,
named turning stars and constellations,
saw life’s spring and summer,
its autumn and its winter
the zodiac in life’s zoè,
its seedtime, its harvest,
did you not know Me
and give me many names?

I AM your Father, I AM Mother,
your Sister, your Brother;
I AM Love and I AM laughter.
When My erring son or daughter
turns away and strays to danger.
Though I grieve and there is anger.
Yet in Me there is no turning,
no wrath nor fierce burning,
simply longing and a yearning
watching for My child’s returning.

Though you nailed me to a tree,
from death I’ve broken free,
and follow you through hell
to bring you home.

 

Emmanuel – God of Emotions

I was  given this poem by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.  Its author expresses, with great sensitivity, the most dearly held feelings about God and His love.

Emmanuel
“God with us”

God is the God of emotions
He…
Laughs when we laugh
Cries when we cry
Hurts when we hurt
He feels the pain
…and the joy

Because of this there is;
Light in the darkness
Joy amongst the sadness
Healing in pain and brokeness

“We have this treasure in jars of clay”
(2 Corinthians, 4:7)
Here is an invitation to have immense hope

Emmanuel
“God with us”

Sue’s Birthday Bunnies

Dedicated to my friends Dick & Sue.

For her birthday little Sue
was given by her Daddy two
little bunnies in a hutch.
She said, ‘I love them! Oh so much!’
She loved them, and they loved Sue,
And they loved each other too.

Bunnies did what bunnies do,
so what a great surprise had Sue
when she peeped inside their door:
her two bunnies now were four.

‘Daddy come! Oh Daddy quick!
(Daddy by the way was Dick)
One and one have just made four!’
Daddy came and Daddy saw
that the present he’d supplied
had gone forth and multiplied.

‘Oh no!’ he said, ‘I gave you two.
Pretty soon we’ll have a zoo!
There first were two, and now two more,
It’s two and two that becomes four.’

Later talking to his neighbour
Dick said, ‘How I had to labour!
‘Sue may be bright and pretty quick,
but no good at arithmetic!’

The neighbour said,
‘Now don’t you fuss,
although I only drive a bus
I study speed and things like that
when in my driver’s seat I’m sat.
A speed of just two miles an hour
If doubled needs a bit more power.
But, and this is hard to scan,
I’ll try and do it if I can,
two miles an hour plus two again,
Is not four m.p.h.’

‘Explain!’

‘The actual sum, as I have found,
Is two miles per hour, plus two miles more
less two divided by the speed of light in miles per hour.
This argument you can’t resist.
I am a Quantum Physicist
not a poet.’

‘I thought you drove a bus!’

Dick’s other neighbour, on his way,
Stopped to pass the time of day.
‘Math and physics show us we
really need philosophy.
One and two and three and four
mean nothing if not joined to more.
They are shorthand, abstract terms,
to count the stars and sticks, and worms.’

‘And bunnies!’ spoke up little Sue.
We really must give her her due.
She knows that numbers are a tool
not bound to any other rule
than Einstein’s relativity
and Heisenberg’s uncertainty.
Schrodinger’s unhappy cat
would surely say, ‘Amen.’ to that.

Made in the Image

Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews. Availing himself of the right of conquest, he entered the temple. Thus it became commonly known that the place stood empty with no similitude of gods within, and that the shrine had nothing to reveal.
Tacitus, Histories, Book 5, chap. 9

When Cneius Pompeius entered as conqueror
into the Holy of Holies, did he find nothing there?
No Godlike image? No fragment of wonder?
no token of the invisible God?
an empty room?

Did nothing in that empty, holy shrine,
ask the great question of our common daily tasks,
those shared hopes of yours, and mine, and his;
the great perhaps that there might be
something there that speaks beyond desire,
beyond you, beyond me, beyond him,
that knew his name?

No ark, no cherubim, no tablets of the Law,
hidden or lost since that first temple,
destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
half a thousand years before?
Did holiness remain?
or any thing?

No ark, no cherubim, no tablets of the Law,
Was that image in the seige-towers?
The battering rams?
the hand to hand facing with the enemy?

And were his gods in the victory parade,
passing like a sword through vanquished, sullen-lined streets?
Or in the holy place beyond the double veil?
The Holy of Holies of the only God of this strange race?

Pompey returned to his daily soldier round,
to his home’s embrace, his wife, his children,
and was His image there?
Did he recall in the empty shrine
that image of God seen there,
in himself,
and in the little things of home?

Two thousand years have passed, and more,
since Pompey came as conqueror
into the Holy of Holies.
Did he find nothing there?
No Godlike image? No fragment of wonder?
no token of the invisible God that asks,
as we are asked now,
in our homes, our daily tasks,
our homely shrines, where we,
wives, husbands, children,
each made in the image of God –
are asked to see,
and love and be loved.

Why do we bicker, in and with His image,
with weapons forged of words,
of sighs and glaring eyes,
with those whom we should love?
How, faced daily with His image,
should we do anything but love?