While putting the finishing touches to my own 2019 Advent book, it has been a joy to pick up my copy of Malcolm Guite’s wonderful Waiting on the Word and begin again the daily readings of poetry, elucidated by the thoughts of a great poet.
The first few poems in the book have to do with looking; in particular George Herbert’s The Glance and Christina Rossetti’s beautiful Advent Sunday, with its chiastic structure full of reflected looks, mirrors and eyes.
This reminded me of the following poem that I wrote a few years ago (one from the Drawn From Words booklet) which seems especially appropriate, given that the working title of the book I’m completing at the moment is Image of the Invisible.
Now we see only
through a prism, and dimly:
one day, face to face.
Prisms fracture light.
One true beam is divided
into slits and stripes
turning and intersecting
broken in spectrum.
In this web of light
image of the hidden God
catch me in your truth.
I’m not sure how this poem is not yet included in my blog, given that it has now appeared in several other places on the internet. Time to put that right.
The poem grew from a remark made by Malcolm Guite on one of his retreat days at Otley hall; I forget the context, but “Trees are a way of thinking” stuck in my mind and became the first line of a poem.
The poem was then found on Facebook by Chris Upton, who set it to music, and I was lucky enough to attend a concert at which it was performed by Seraphim, an excellent all-female ensemble choir. (You can hear it performed here and access the sheet music from this page)
It gained another claim to fame earlier this year when I sent a copy to Dame Judi Dench after watching her beautiful documentary My Passion for Trees. She sent a lovely thank you note in reply, and I’d like to think that she read it (preferably out loud in that famous voice!) and has tucked the sheet music away somewhere.
Here is the poem:
Trees are a way of thinking, for every tree is given
an appetite for earth with an ambition to reach heaven,
a fingerprinted bark to wrap up memories in rings
of a hundred winters fading, followed by a hundred springs.
Trees are a way of praying, for every tree’s a church:
the cathedral of the willow and the steeple of the birch,
the summoning of seasons in the sacrifice of leaves
and stained-glass window winter skies through criss-cross branching eaves.
Trees are a way of hearing, for those with ears to hear,
about the hope locked into seeds, the blessing of the year.
Happy is nature’s poet when he has an eye that sees
for parables of roots and fruits, you can rely on trees.