Towards Lindisfarne 2

From here, the generosity of grief,

the soft embrace of unworthiness

that filled the cold stones of discipline

is unreachable. The roar of tyres

and the clatter of wheels on tracks

hold us in restless anxiety.

But the stones rise; the seas are parted

and pilgrimage becomes possible.

To step across the blank sands and feel

the winds blow away the city sounds

is to enter a pruned and scoured world

where the scratch of quill on vellum cuts

through the silence and decorates

old wisdom with ecstatic colour;

where the toll of the bell echoes through

the calm of cloister, innocent

of the sea’s wild rage and the wind’s roar.

Illumination 2

It is not the light,

not the yellow candles

shivering beneath high ceilings;

not the room’s aspect towards the morning sun;

not the carefully placed uplighters

or lamps with their tasteful shades,

not the black framed screen

with its storytelling and songs.

(Paul’s illumination came with blindness.)

You can climb to the heights

and see, spread out to the horizon

a foreign land, the unknown, the unreachable.

Or a story in shaping of hedgerows,

in the rhythm of crop and copse,

the tracing lines of exploration,

necessity and exchange,

the assertions of ownership

in faced stone and poised specimen trees.

Illumination it seems is a craft,

the patient application of ink

to skin, the weight of the arm placed

to serve controlled gesture,

image and design drawn from tradition

and entwined, lines dancing in and out,

crowned with gold leaf and colour

that bursts from a background

of self denial and inwardness.

Illumination is more than seeing –

it is a searching in corners,

a scraping of mud from humble artefacts

plucked from decay.

Illumination 1

Those childhood days of fresh colours, of pinks

and reds vibrant in the bright light of dawn,

all freshly discovered and brilliant,

they shine as illuminated treasure

across rugged contours of a lifetime.

Look into the shine of youth, be dazzled

and blinded. Rotten branches are best left

to compost in darkness, though still the thorns

scratch the skin and shred protective clothing

woven from time’s distractions. I feel yet

the gaping wounds, the dreams driven away

by self-disgust and its terrors, calf love

tender and pure, crushed with brutality.

How life is illuminated by grief!

Recovery 2

What is recovery? – the smoothing down

of grotesque growths, the white bandages wrapped

around deep ravines carved into the flesh

of innocents. So soon the agony

is transformed to an archive of lost thoughts

as the soft rains wash blood from the pavements,

and dissolve the bullet holes from the walls.

Innocent solemnities of worship

may be hidden by the grime of battle

and carved pillars are scattered to rubble

but we learn to look elsewhere for beauty

and seek the mercy of forgetfulness.

Amnesia becomes recovery

as the neighbour is content that his ears

are warmed beneath the duvet and a silence

preserves the idea of politeness.

Who cares for recovery when the will

to strive can be found in the bed ridden

and crippled; the permanence of damage

is our shared inheritance in the sun.

Darkness

Now the curtains were drawn;

it was a new kind of privacy.

The private intimacies of family

no longer needed protection

from prurient passers by.

The drone of death after sunset,

welcomed by the siren’s wail

and the drumbeat of terror stricken feet

crowded out those small fears of exposure.

It was important not to exist,

to be part of an empty wilderness,

folding the protective shawl of darkness

around shoulders that waited for outrage.

The candle was lit but its faint flicker

revealed only the trembling lines of fear.

Illumination joined the enemy

in a dance of death, unfeeling, cruel.

Dawn

It hardly seemed like a light;

more an infusion of slate

soaked into a flatness

that sat in total stillness

waiting and holding its breath.

All you could smell was the cold –

no sharp frost but a quiet

lifeless chill that spent the night

breathing out the last day’s heat.

Nothing moved except the beat

of his blood against his eyes,

as he endured, unsleeping.

He felt a paralysis

a hiatus waiting for

an injection of contour

and shadow into his limbs,

the light’s creation of space

in which he could move and breathe

recovering energy

through perspective and gradient’s

resistance. From the shadows

comes the chorus of demand

to celebrate survival.

Recovery

That first dose of penicillin

I remember; it lifted weights

from my eyes and cleared confusion

from my fevered mind. Suddenly

I knew this was recovery.

It was the dumb speaking, the lame

walking, the bed-ridden springing

across the grass in the sunshine.

I found it was a fairy tale

perfect for childhood innocence.

I had to learn the hard lesson

of what cannot be made better.

Then there is that other great lie,

that Time is a healer – a cure

that confuses recovery

with freedom from pain and is left

alone dozing in a corner.

The Myth of Origins

Where does the wind begin?

It’s not like the stream

dripping from mountain tops,

as the storm clouds pass.

There is no seed with a hidden

store of hurricanes in its genes.

There is no starter pistol

to shoot it from its blocks.

Gods do not lean on the poles

to push a gasp from the earth’s lungs.

We, who begin and end, press the finite

on the infinite and are mystified.

Fact

“There is no scientific proof

that wearing a mask

will protect you from a virus.”

There stands the placard defending

a strange idea

as hospital beds are filled.

‘There is no scientific proof

that refusing masks

will protect the brain’s functioning.’

No placard here; may be some truths

are simply too dull

to receive the world’s attention.

There is some scientific proof

that wearing a mask

protects others from a virus.

This one doesn’t seem to catch on;

it lacks that outrage,

that suggestion of defiance,

the glamour of one in the crowd,

independent insight,

a beacon in a world of lies.

But facts, on the whole, are just prose

in a world seeking

more intoxicating rhythms.

Patinas

The filmed past is brown and hazy, with tired

streets, flaking paint, rust and abandoned hopes

littering the pavement. All a patina

hiding the cool facts, the grammar of deeds

and the bland calculations of living.

Films of glamour coat the dry cracked cement

and mouldy detritus of domestic

routine. The ordinary is cropped to force

a hope for beauty, to seep through the cracks

and sparkle in the new morning sunlight.