Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My Church Going

A church of ancient stone and handmade brick,
Above a fertile plain, upon a hill,
Surrounded by gold crops: barley, wheat,
(Whose scent upon the summer air
In intense heat, is like the scent of heaven
When the old oak door is opened)
Sets the scene
For so much that made England what it was,
And, against the odds, is still.
And just because it's precious, quaint, serene,
Does not imply it stands for all that's wrong.

The wheezing of the organ in its loft
Of 18th century flaking, greyish green,
Accompanies the singing of the flock,
Contraltos fruit cake rich and quavery men,
Mostly white haired, but farming stock,
So there are young ones too, who come along,
And take communion, say the Nicene Creed,
And love their neighbours as themselves;
Knowing Christ and knowing how to act
To make this mean
Something real within their daily lives.

And every week it's always just the same,
With different hymns to wash the message down,
'Amazing Grace', is loved by all,
And sung with feeling
By these farmers and their offspring and their wives,
Whose upper lips are stiff, and who would frown
At any mention one might feel moved.
And Handel at the end to round things off,
Restores us to neutrality, concealing
Any sense that prayer or bread of life or sermon
Might have caused us, standing, sitting, kneeling,
Any deeper pause for thought.

And though I come here, yet I still reject
The central tenets of the Christian faith,
I am moved by its history and tradition.

Partly as enlightenment and philosophical wisdom,
Albeit that they grew in opposition
Were rooted in this same need to stand outside ourselves;
To seek out and discover
Some meaning in the human condition.
And yet, this too has had its season,
And science has itself become religion.
And so perhaps we need to hear again the old ideas,
Not with the arrogance of hindsight,
But really listen with new ears,
Because when wise words aren't spoken,
Heard, dwelt on,
How can there be wiser contradiction?

So every week I hear that God,
Is not responsible for man's misdeeds,
And every week I say the words Christ taught,
Asking that I might resist temptation.
And though I only ponder these things vaguely,
Because my mind is turning on roast dinners,
I comprehend man has his freedom:
Reason, choice, also his lesser instinct, intuition.
And despite redemption and salvation
I feel rather glad we're fallen sinners.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Quakers Want Peace in Palestine (Villanelle) (Based on some overheard remarks)

This killing is wrong, we must draw a line,
I think every Zionist should be shot,
All we Quakers want peace in Palestine.

How dare they defend themselves and define
The rules of combat, back the other lot,
They are the goodies. We don't undermine

The prospect of a lasting peace.  We shine
The light of wisdom on the bloody spot:
All we Quakers want peace in Palestine.

Of course it isn't simple, we refine
Our complex reading down and then we trot
Out a basic anti Zionist line.

The west has done its best, tried to combine
The tribes into democracies they're not.
All we Quakers want peace in Palestine

Perhaps it's up to us to determine
Exactly how and when this should be got,
What harm is there in trying? Their war's mine,
All we Quakers want peace in Palestine

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mostly inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville writing in 1835

Dear Sir,
I wish to be a child of the state;
I know my place and yearn for Neverland,
My infancy is a perpetual joy,
So please provide for my security.
Please help, don't leave me to my fate,
I only wish to stay a happy boy.
Foresee my needs and then supply them, stand
Up for me, facilitate my pleasure,
Manage all my principal concerns,
And please direct my industry and leisure.
And though I'm but a child,
Should I procreate,
Make sure that you control the descent
Of all my property; please regulate.
Inheritances you must subdivide.
And then, because I'm good and love the law,
Provide a network o'er the surface
Of my life, of tiny, petty, bossy, pointless rules,
Complicated, uniform, unique,
And I shall learn them like a child at school,
Recite them and become a mindless bore.
My mind shan't know originality,
And lacking energy, my character
Shall not attempt to penetrate their meaning,
Nor yet to rise above:  please enervate,
I need a nanny's love.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

On Maternal Love

Maternal love grows stronger as it hides.
The love for helpless infants we expose
To all the the world because it's general, glows
In shining eyes. It's recognised. Those tides,
That kept us joyful, happy, were besides
The means of gaining sympathy. But those
First feelings were merely the start. We chose
To let the world rejoice with us. The strides
The infant made, becoming an adult
We named and shared, but it was in between,
In ordinary hours that the swell
Grew high. The peaks and troughs did not result
In longing for an end. And yet the scene
Must shift: Love sets its object free and bids farewell.

Storm

Between the crash and the startled rise to consciousness
Was no vacuum for agnosticism to fill.
The violence that last night rent the air,
Spoke to the watchman of the mind asleep
Of God's anger. And, despite such reason,
Laid upon this primitive reaction
In millefeuille like layers of delicate abstraction,
The sense remained. 
The need to blame oneself lies deep,
Inverted arrogance that sees the human will
As powerful in the face of all evidence,
Hides beneath the cerebellum,
Lurks, bides its time, disregarding every contradiction.
No nihilistic counterbalance rises up in negative defiance.
The  too small voice of rationality
Whispers in the ear that's by the pillow squashed,
And the human sense, which reigns supreme in the tranquility
Of summer days and languid heat,
Retreats, replaced by this childish insanity.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Acknowledging the Lizard and the Chimp.

We are not merely animals and yet,
To be a human being is not to reason
And to calculate alone.
A vet will recognise within us that same thrust
Which is the life force in all creatures.
Our minds, as well, contain this strange thing, intuition,
Which we might seem to disregard,
And yet cannot. It plays its part,
Silently, and helps to season
What we like to think is rational decision.

The features of the human mask the beast,
Evolution reached fruition, we became, a sane
And wondrous thing,
And so we feel we should forget that still within us
Lie qualities we cannot yet explain.
And some of us imagine a division
Between these aspects of our human nature
And those which yet remain
From some primordial, less developed time.

But no such separation can occur. Our brains,
Between the reptile and the human interlink,
And though we hold our cerebral cortex
In great high regard, the tide,
The whizzing, whirling vortex,
Which is the spinning of the mind, in thought,
Shows the monkey and the lizard lurk inside,
Flicking their tongues, and testing the air,
Picking the fleas from their hair or fur,
What they add to the process may well only distort,
But they temper the rational when we think.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Shall I Assist you with your Death?

The pity that we feel for ourselves,
We must disguise, with the imagined thought
That it's for him at whose bedside we kneel,
Pretend, because we are ourselves distraught,
That it is comfort, ease, which we desire,
For him on whom we look and whom we love.
To 'rage against the dying of the light',
Is not, in truth, behaviour we require,
From those whose dying seems to be prolonged.
And so we tell ourselves it's for the best,
To end the misery and cut death short.
We feel we act humanely and admire
Courage in the face of that which we detest.
And yet we recognise the moment when,
A man lets go a life and goes beyond.
We know that time. Know nothing, when it comes,
Can turn it back, but always until then
There's hope, not of a cure or life renewed
But of a human life where hope sustains
And of a man, who, hoping yet, remains.