Poetry Mondays: Patchwork

Today’s poem is a meditation on a patchwork quilt, written years ago when I started a ‘poetry blog’.  I’m not even going to link to that blog, which flailed about for a bit and then stopped, but I’m still proud of some of the poems there, and will be moving them in here bit by bit. I’ve tweaked this one a little because the scansion wasn’t quite right.  Some of it is still not quite right, but I think that expresses the rustic charm of a patchwork quilt made from scraps.

Patchwork

Patchwork’s the craft of rescuing dreams,
a fabric of memories fastened in seams,
where old is not worthless and scraps are not poor,
where awkward shapes fit and where less can be more.
A conglomeration, collection, selection
of numerous oddities viewed with affection.
The disparate cloths to the right and the left
now match in bright harmonies found in the weft
and whether the eye traces high up or down
a hanky may sit indistinct from a gown.
Each chosen and precious, the pieces all share
a holy identity through being there
The kingdom of heaven’s all over the place:
wrapped in a quilt lies an image of Grace.

Poetry Mondays: Christus Victor

I’ve been out in the garden today, looking at the signs of spring – snowdrops and bright yellow flowers (I’m not a botanist) are appearing like a hidden hoard of gold turned up by the plough, reminding me of this spring/Easter poem I wrote a couple of years ago.

 

 

I’m very fond of medieval imagery, and I have to confess that this isn’t the first time I’ve used the word ‘oriflamme‘ in a poem – I’m not sure what that says about me!  The whole sonnet, though, is based around the medieval theory of atonement called Christus Victor, which I first met (and loved) reading Piers Plowman.  The central idea is that Christ is sent as a sort of ‘bait’ or ransom, so that the devil is tricked into killing him, not realising that he is God and will rise again, breaking the gates of hell.  There’s a flavour of this in Narnia when the White Witch triumphantly kills Aslan, but forgets the ‘deep magic’ that his sacrifice will awake – and of course, in Narnia too, the spring returns.

Christus Victor

The dragon Winter made a treasure trove
and all the jewels of Earth were in his keep.
He shut it tight, and fast the bolts he drove,
and, sealed with ice, stored it in caverns deep.
But all unseen, a thief came in the cold
and stole inside, before he shut the lid.
Life stole inside among the hoarded gold
Curled up beneath the covert gems, and hid.
Then, while the ransacked earth, by theft undone,
covered her shame and sorrow under snow,
Life smashed the roof.  Now look!  Catching the sun,
gold cowslip, daffodil and primrose grow.
That knight who stole the stolen, stands most brave:
Life’s oriflamme flies from that plundered cave.
April 23rd 2015

Poetry Mondays: John 1

Last week I wrote this blog post for the Association of Christian Writers’ blog, More Than Writers.  It finishes with a poem called Katalambano (click above and have a look at the blog post to find out more about what that means!)

The poem is one of a pair, but I wrote them years apart.  The first one is called Source, and was written at Spring Harvest 2013 as a creative meditation on the first few verses of John 1, that Bible passage often heard at Christmas and also known as the Prologue.  When I wrote Katalambano in October 2015, I wasn’t setting out to write a companion piece, but it was immediately obvious that the finished poem belonged with Source: in the same rhythm, based on the same passage, and both written from a simple list of words in my journal.

Here they are together.

Source

He is the Source, the Beginning, the Maker,
The Origin, Big Bang, Primeval Earthquaker,
The Author, Composer, the Dreamer, the Dream,
Foundation, the Cornerstone, Load-Bearing Beam,
Creator, Inspiring, he sang the first song,
Alpha, Word, Logos, the There-All-Along
The initial brush stroke on the page waiting white,
The Crux and the Reason Why, Let There Be Light
Firstborn from the dead, he’s the one up before us
The Number One, Rising Sun, leads the dawn chorus
The breath before speaking, the thought before breath,
The spark before thinking, the Life without death.

Katalambano

When light shines in darkness, the darkness is gone.
In darkness, light cannot be swallowed or won,
Contained or attained, or explained, grasped or gained,
Seized or perceived, acquired or obtained.
The dark doesn’t get it.
The dark hasn’t found it.
The dark cannot wrap understanding around it,
For darkness cannot comprehend light, or know it,
Cannot overwhelm, overcome, overthrow it;
The dark has not conquered or crushed or controlled it
The dark doesn’t get it.
The dark cannot hold it.
In Jesus was life, and the life was the light, because
He held life – lightly –
So that we’d hold it tight.

 

Poetry Mondays: Rebekah

Since yesterday was Advent Sunday, today I’d like to share a sonnet I wrote during Advent last year.  Every Advent, we use a Jesse tree to remember the characters and stories that make up the bigger story of God’s saving plan for his world.  Rebekah is one of those people, called out of her home to join the family of God. I was struck by the beautiful moment in Genesis 24:62-65 when Isaac and Rebekah see each other for the first time across a distance, and the parallel between the way they approached each other and the way we, as a church, approach the coming King who is on his way to meet us.

Rebekah

She saw the bridegroom, so she veiled her face.
Between them hovered hope, and the unknown;
Love longing lay between, across the space.
Love was between them, and was not yet shown.

Her love stepped out, stepped into the between.
Her beauty now belonging to his praise
Now that she saw him look, while still unseen
She veiled her beauty, waiting for his gaze.

Her advent brought him, searching, from his place:
His advent made her faithfully prepare.
She journeyed on, but now, she veiled her face.
He searched until he found, and met her there.

Is that my Love, come out to meet His bride?
Give me my veil, and bring me to His side.

 

Poetry Mondays: The Kingdom’s Down Here

 

I wrote this – what is it? A performance poem, doggerel, a rant? – a few weeks after Brexit, and I think that in the light of the American election it may be worth sharing it again.  Some people might find it useful for Advent and Christmas, too, as it explores ideas about the kingdom of God, the incarnation and Mary’s song.

It really works better read out loud, because as with most of my ‘performance’ poetry, the scansion isn’t obvious.  I initially posted it on Facebook as a video, but that makes it harder for others to make use of it, so this is the full text.  If you think of it as being loosely in anapaests, you’ll find the scansion easier to pick up!  The style is inspired by the things Glen Scrivener writes, so if you want to see this kind of thing being done really well, have a look at his videos.  I wish I had his filming and editing expertise.

 

The Kingdom’s Down Here

 

I write at the end of a fortnight of news

That has left many hurting, divided and bruised.

I don’t think I’m alone here. The world’s a disaster.

And we Christians pray, ‘Let God’s kingdom come faster!’

But the kingdom’s down here, if you have eyes to see:

Like when God picks an unmarried teen refugee

To be pregnant, alone, with no family supporting,

Gets dumped by her bloke, and instead of aborting,

She sings! She rejoices! She calls herself blessed,

Says God scatters the proud, raises up the oppressed,

Knocks the powerful down, fills the hungry with food,

Sends the rich home with nothing. She says God is good

And remembers his mercy. And all of her hoping

Is how she is living, not just how she’s coping.

She’s seeing the world in this radical light;

In the Light of the World. It’s because, not despite

The way that things are, that the kingdom shines through.

In the light of the world we can glimpse what is true.

So where is this hope? When the mighty are strong,

When the hungry are starved, have we cause for a song?

Yes! The song of the kingdom’s the song of the blessed.

It goes: blessed are the losers. Blessed the distressed.

Blessed are the poor, the downtrodden, the slow,

The refugees running with nowhere to go,

They’re all blessed. The grieving are blessed, and the weak,

The bullied, the broken, the unspoken meek,

Blessed are the victims. Blessed the oppressed,

Blessed are the stressed, blessed the depressed.

And blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed beyond measure

The pure-hearted ones who discover this treasure,

This parallel kingdom, invisible, true,

And bring it to blessing. And they could be you.

The kingdom’s down here, if you have eyes to see,

With the hungry and poor, and in you, and in me.

For the kingdom is doing its mustard seed thing

Where a gaggle of losers who loved a dead king

Start to meet; washing feet; sacrificing their lives

Every day, like their king, always dying to rise.

Because here in this kingdom, it’s all upside down.

The humblest are highest, the poor get the crown

And the winners who sprinted to be in first place

Are arriving to find that they lost the whole race

To the stragglers and limpers who loped at the back

And the ones who served drinks at the side of the track.

So don’t worry. The kingdom is here. It’s not gone.

It’s existing in us. Love has already won.

Poetry Mondays: All Saints

Today being All Hallows Eve, tomorrow must be all hallows, or all saints’ day.  The church will be celebrating the lives of the saints: Christians who have lived and died before us.

Here’s a performance poem that I wrote quite a while ago for a primary school assembly on all saints’ day.  It was performed with props and bits of costume which had to be put on, picked up and thrown down again at high speed, adding to the silliness – but, hopefully, it makes a memorable point by the end.

St Peter was a fisherman, he fished the whole day long,
When Jesus asked him questions, Peter got the answers wrong,
When they said he followed Jesus, Peter swore it wasn’t true!
If St Peter is a saint, then we can be saints too!

St Paul was an unpleasant man with just one thing in mind:
To hunt down and to murder all the Christians he could find.
Yet he’s the one that Jesus chose to send his message through,
If St Paul can be a saint, then we can be saints too!

Saint Matthew was a taxman who stole far more than his share
Everybody hated him and said he was unfair
But Jesus said “Hey, follow me”: Matt stuck to him like glue
If St Matthew is a saint, then we can be saints too!

St Martha was a fusspot, and when Jesus came to stay
She wouldn’t sit and listen to a thing he had to say,
She squabbled with her sister as she tried to cook the stew –
If St Martha is a saint, then we can be saints too!

None of us is perfect, we don’t always get things right.
We lie and steal and misbehave, we argue and we fight.
But Jesus says, “Just come with me, and I can make you new,
I did it for these saints you’ve seen – I’ll do it for you too!”

Poetry Mondays: Half Term

This week is half term, and today we happen to be in a place with a dodgy internet connection, so for Poetry Monday I leave you with these few silly lines that I woke up with a few days ago. Happy holiday if you’re having one!

Lines upon waking on the first day of half term

O, first day of break! O, ignoring the time!

O duvet immoveable, pillow sublime!

O silent alarm, O husband all snores,

School run, where’s thy sting? Where thy power, O chores?

O slippers, O dressing gown, tea in my cup,

O magazine, O – oh, wait. The children are up.

Poetry Mondays: Words

Welcome to my first Poetry Monday!

Every Monday on this blog, I’ll be sharing one of my poems, perhaps with a few tidbits about how it came to be written or what I’ve done with it since.  Some of the poems will be new, but others will be things that I move over from a different place on the internet – a place I’ve moved out of – and put up on the walls here, to make it feel like home.  This is one of those.

It’s called ‘Words’, and was inspired by a single word prompt.  If you haven’t seen much of my writing yet, you will discover I’m fond of those!  You’ll also discover that I love playing with different poetic forms.  This one is a sort of kyrielle, but it’s not very strict one –  for example, the refrain is only half a line long where a true kyrielle would have a whole line, and it’s repeated more often than necessary.  Some might object that, because the punctuation changes, it’s not a true refrain; but for me, the joy of repeated words is to tease out as many different meanings from them as possible.

Why not have a go at a Kyrielle – or a version of one – yourself, and leave a link here?

Words

Words work for me, my employees
A quarter of a million strong
buzz round my head like swarming bees
as I direct: words, work for me!

Words work for me, I send them out
to fill each story, verse or song
Some I make whisper, others shout.
They wound, move, heal. Words work for me.

Words work for me: all except one,
the master to whom I belong:
and every word beneath the sun
Cannot explain Word’s work for me.