Vicky’s broken things (and other tales)…

A few weeks ago – in the early days of lockdown – I recieved a lovely thing through the post; a copy of this;

I met Vicky through poetry, during the gathering of poems for a poetry anthology I was working on for Proost (this one in fact). We discovered mutual interests and mutual friends and it has been lovely to watch her and Brian’s adventures develop over on the other side of Scotland.

Meanwhile, Vicky continues writing. This book is a collection of 15 lovely poems, circling around moments – transcendent moments, awakenings, encounters with nature that allow us to glimpse beyond back around into ourselves.

I need the night

blessing and balm

of the softening sky

as the day folds its hands, finished

You can order a copy of the book from the publisher (, from Amazon, or for an even more special treat, you can get a beautifully annotated copy direct from Vicky, who is also a talented artist.

One more lovely sentence;

I expected silence

to be peace

some sort of hard-earned joy


But instead I wept

as silence offered me

my own star-shrouded heart

The Great Silence #2

What next? Do we go back to the old normal?

I profoundly hope not, because we can do so much better.

I wanted to write a series of posts reflecting on our Great Silence. This is the second.



in the old way of thinking, change

comes only through Great Love, or


Great Suffering – but both are hard, both

will break us apart, if we let them


then (like the third part of trinity) comes

the Great Silence.

The Great Silence…

What next? Do we go back to the old normal?

I profoundly hope not, because we can do so much better.

I wanted to write a series of posts reflecting on our Great Silence. This is the first.



Normally I spend my Saturday shopping

I take breakfast out of plastic and normally need

Two sugars in my rainforest alliance coffee cup.

I ignore the poor folk normally asleep in doorways

And keep my coin for normal things –

Like shoes that I don’t normally walk in

Sleek black phones that never ring



Normally the world spins clockwise, always

Corkscrewing to the right, where rich people are richer

Although despite the finest food, not fatter

Normally, each summer, I follow the sun

Climbing aboard an airborne aerosol

Which normally arrives inconveniently late, but

Under normal circumstances I would not allow this

To disturb my holiday


Normally I don’t hear birds sing, because

I am woken by twitter, snared (as normal) by

Silicon, which sticks my gaze to a small screen.

Deadened by dull days, I long for weekends,

During which I compensate by over consumption

For (normally) what else is there? Better not mention



There will come a time when this virus is gone, managed, part of our recent history. We will emerge from our houses and flats and blink in new light.

What world will we make? What will we have learned during our enforced furlough from the way things used to be? Do we want things to go back to how they were?

Do we still think that it is not possible to make radical political and economic changes in the face of a major crisis (such as a climate emergency for example)?

Do we still think that an economy whose survival is based on increasing GDP year on year into infinity is every going to be sustainable?

Do we think that inequality and poverty are prices worth paying to sustain our own small kingdoms or can we do better than this?

We need new thinking, new leadership.

Perhaps this might help;

Every Easter I try to write a poem that gathers together something of where we are. This Easter I am fortunate to be spending with my wife, my kids and Emily’s boyfriend. The sun is shining and the garden is blooming. Meanwhile in the real world, others are locked in tiny flats, lonely and with little to eat, stopped from even visiting their local parks.

What does Easter mean in this context?

I care not for your carefully crafted theories of atonement

Or the chocolate eggs you hid inside my hedge

Make it myth or firmest fact, or just

Some old and cold convention

Don old bonnets or blue bunny suits

Cantata or carouse it

But me, I search the sky for hope

I long for resurrection


I long for greens at the tips of trees

For stirrings deep in soil

For a pulse aflutter under brand-new skin

Marking an end of unpotential, when

Spring is carried in on warming winds

Letting souls unfold, like leaves

Like lengthening days, reaching out

For resurrection


Roll away the stone

For behold, all things are made again, and

We all need second chances

After silence comes the song

Comes the knowing right from wrong

And the grace to make things better

Let us make messiah from our mud and blood

And practice resurrection

Every subsequent spring…

Every subsequent spring

All things die

You know this, but know it again

Not so as to live in deaths dark valley

Or to let fear fence you from the joy of living

Rather know it so death does not fool you

So it does not rule you

Know it because, like last year’s leaves

(Or the spirit that stirs in oak trees)

Nothing is ever wasted, nothing rejected

Instead, all of us will come to participate

In every subsequent spring

From now into ever after


The one true sadness of God…

I process things by writing about them; you could say this this is my kind of contemplation. However, I have struggled to write much about this virus that has now suspended almost all our normal human activity.

Perhaps this might be something to do with a lack of requirement- a deadline can be very creative, after all. I have been toying with the idea of looking for some creative colaborations with other artists, but at present I am struggling to find a window to look through, so am not sure that I have anything to offer in such a partnership.

Facebook dulls and frustrates, full as it is with virtue signalling and foux-righteous indignation- I have enough of these things myself without being immersed in everyone else’s. I find myself equally repelled by the worship of NHS workers and the rants against hoarders and campervans. We might have hoped for so much more from such a vital communications platform in a time of isolation, but instead, it seems to be a conduit for cliche and condemnation.

The other day, in a moment of existential cynicism, I wrote the poem below. I hesitate to share it, because it is hardly a cheerful offering- in fact, feel free to skip past it – but in the end, I decided that it told part of a story that might be worth telling (you may disagree if you last to the end of this post!)


While we shopped

While we stared at small screens

While we threw more and more plastic into our plastic bins

While we pumped full the tanks of our personal transport machines

While we told ourselves that consumption was a human right

And package holidays were reasonable compensation

For all our hard work

While we did all of these things, thinking

We could do them forever

The Earth waited

For the time when all this human hubris

Would become no more than a faint barcode

Buried in the strata of old rocks

Revealed from time to time

By waves of a clean clear sea

Reaching in from the far


I try to write what feels ‘true’, but if there is any truth in this poem, it is only partial, or perhaps situational. I (mostly!) do not think that humanity is doomed and best gone and out the way for the sake of the wider world.

But I do think that the human condition, COVID-19 or not, is a carrier of darkness. By this, I don’t only mean that we do bad things, which of course we do, but rather that pain, uncertainty, lonliness, doubt, fear, failure, despair and grief – these things are wrapped around who we are and what we are becoming. Positive thinking has it’s place, but tsunamis and viruses are not fooled.

If you are feeling some of these things now, you are not alone. I have even heard this collective howl at the heart of our humanity called this; The one true sadness of God

Through the last few months, I have been making my way slowly (with some dear friends) through a book by Richard Rohr called ‘The Universl Christ’. I have written about this book before because it is a beautiful, hope-filled piece of writing, exploring theology and philosphy in ways that seem ever more important and apt for the times we are in.

In one chapter, Rohr describes his acute pain at the loss of his dog after 15 years of companionship. I am not a dog owner, so the bond between man and animal is something of a mystery to me, but this matters not, because what Rohr was trying to describe was his own personal howl of pain and loss- how this individualised and seperated him, but then how in turn it became a connection between himself and God.

This is not the Talisman-God, worn like a medallion in the hope of warding off anything unwanted, rather this is the Christ, through whom all things live and have their being. The Christ who we glimpse deep inside the eyes of the other.

This is not the God of the prosperous and the healthy. S/he is not to be discovered on mountain tops, but dwells in the deepest valley, shadowed even by death.

To those of you who are suffering, this God offers no easy solutions, no promises that all these things will work together for good, if we could but understand his mysterious ways.

Instead, S/he offers this promise; I am here, where you are. In the middle of this darkness.

I wrote one more poem. I hope it makes sense;

The one true sadness of God

The black dog turned his face to me

And I stare into eyes that go on for ever

Like wells dug down

Into the wilderness of this world

Like weeping wounds

Nailed into the soul of God

For here are we, with hearts near broken

By all these broken things

Trapped between the birthing pains of our becoming

And terminal pains from passing

Blessed are we, for love comes not just as joy

It holds us too in suffering