Advent 18: Joy…

Today, two poems about joy.

The first one might take you down, but can I suggest you stay with it for a while. Let it rest before you move on to the second.

Most of us are not used to reading poetry, but for most of the history of written language, it has been used as an aid to meditation and mysticism. The Hebrew Bible is at least one third poetry, for instance, more than likely copying the practices of the Babylonian culture that dominated them, from which fragments have survived too, most notably the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Other traditions are more familiar with this practice, particularly the Sufis within Islam, who have inherited the most astonishing work of poets such as Attar, Rumi and Sanai.

If you are approaching poems as a spiritual practice, it might be worth remembering the tradition of lecto divina, or holy reading, in which we read a passage 3 times, attending to our bodies and looking for words that resonate. The simplest easy to do this is to read a poem, and allow one sentence to speak to you. Wait for a moment, then read again.

There is a discussion to be had here about what is ‘scripture’ and whether it is appropriate to use poetry written by someone like me in this mystical way. That is a discussion for another time.

Photo by Carlos Roberto Cu00f3rdova on

Joy to the world


‘Joy to the world’ always sounds

ridiculously over-inclusive, from my

narrow perspective

lowered down in these city streets

obfuscated by all that is ordinary.

How about some joy more localised?

More specific

to the state I’m in?


What currency is joy counted in anyway?

What mortgage payments might it make?

Will it float me far away on free air miles?

Will it sprinkle fairy dust on these small days of winter?

Or is it some celestial scratch card

Always scratched by

someone else?


Like a shepherd, I would not recognise it

even if the Angel Gabriel visited me on lonely hillside

Even if it fizzed in the mountain brooks

like victory Champagne.

Let alone if glimpsed in bloody froth

as it slapped down on some filthy stable floor

at the ragged end of a distant empire.


No choir, just the cries of a too-young mother

And a fart from the odd ruminant.

Joy to the world indeed.

Photo by Laura James on

Joy 2


Joy is not a bauble

Not a bubble, too soon burst

Never manufactured cost effectively

It is not bought or sold

It is not gold


Joy is not a jacket

You pick from a handy peg, it is

Never something worn externally

It is always a surprise

Like sunrise


Joy requires no skill

Its practice is not taught

It is not being ‘happy’ or content

It is just being open, to the

Beautiful and broken


Joy is an ambush

Hidden in plain sight

Wrapped up in the most unlikely things

It often comes with grief, not even

Promising relief


Joy is a squirrel

Transcending a tree

It is music played directly on the spine

You do not need to look, because

It stabs you the gut

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