Poems from Previous

Home Poetry Readings Collections Poems

Caldey Island

Battered by wind

and battered by sea,

only a fool would visit,

or make plans,

on an island

where the boats

are all “Weather Permitting”.

No good to man

nor beast,

fit only for monks

and for prayer,

when the wind

is gale force


Only a saint

would visit

in winter.

The Abbey Potting Shed

Breaking the rusted lock,

opening the forgotten cupboard,

in a dark corner

of the potting shed,

to the fusty smell

of mouldering decay,

to find behind

dust-grey cobwebs

a whole lifetime’s

odds and ends

in decaying boxes,

lined up row on row,

covering dead moths

and dried-up beetles:

cardboard boxes limp and musty,

some with useful parts

for long departed tools,

lovingly oiled and packaged

against the ravages of time;

others with prized seeds, that sown

could have brought new life,

now crumbling into dust

in packets with names

and dates obliterated.

But one I remove,

poppy seeds still dry

and crisp and rustling,

and, respectfully,

close the door;

on a hook outside,

an old frayed cap and jacket

with dusty wellingtons beneath.

“We are the Bees of the Invisible…”

 Rilke, letter to Witold von Hulewicz

“We’ve never, no, not for a single day, pure space before us, such as that which flowers endlessly open into…”

   Rilke, Duino Elegies VIII

The glory of rose

revealed in time,

minute perfection,

born from a freedom

limited yet pure;

while we, with our

so celebrated liberty,

cry freedom, yet find

ways ever more complex

to restrain the other,

out of step

with creation’s healing touch,

made for the invisible

yet, despite our longing,

still clinging

ever more tenaciously

to the visible.

With our divided minds

distracted by the past and future,

unable to abandon

to the eternal present,

out of tune

with nature’s rhythm,

yet we must find

that undisturbed space

at the centre of the rose .

For our task is God-given,

like Rilke’s bees

to transform the visible

into the invisible,

the growth of love beyond desire;

the poet’s task

to glimpse the eternal

behind the flux of time,

living in two worlds

until both

become one.

The Cloud of Unknowing

Slowing down,

tuning in to God’s time,

putting busyness on hold.

A solitary walk, a familiar path,

a heavy mist on a quiet sea;

light playing on the rippling waves,

its source I cannot see, but know.

Thoughts surface from the deep

and consciousness is stirred;

a lapse of time I cannot measure,

the gold of more than thought,

sharp darts of longing love

begin to rise to pierce the cloud.

Behind the parting mist the sun,

a faint and silver disc,

appears and fades.

Delight unbounded fills my heart,

not held by thought, but love.

Snatched Words with a Lover

Now when prayer

seems dry and empty,

seeming best avoided.

When all that’s left is

like a drawn out

one-way conversation

with someone

you still love;

all communion

felt as broken,

out of touch

but aching

in the lonely desert

of the heart —

how did we get

to this?

Not the way

we started,


snatched words

with a lover.

Then the metaphor

breaks down.

Prayer obeys

no normal rules

or explanations.

All that’s left is

just the will to pray,

when all is

dry and empty,


dry as tinder

in that shared and arid

time and place.

Until the sudden
prayer like fire arrives,
and all is new again:
shared heart, shared spirit,

like, but unlike,

the thrill of

the first excited

snatched words

with a lover.

Delayed by Rough Seas

The Celtic, pilgrim, sailor saints

set out to find the promised land

in open boats

of skins stretched out on wood:

the Cross and just themselves

was all they carried.

Carrying within their hearts

the God they sought;

exiles for the love of Christ,

they hoped to reach their true home.

Mystics, no longer longing for

an earthly homeland but for

that unattainable other world,

mythical island, Land of Promise, hidden

beyond the vastness of the sea.

Speaking the universal language

of Christ’s love,

birds, all nature, joining

in their psalms and chanting,

singing praise to their creator God.

Hunger and thirst they knew,

knowing heaven’s fullness.

Their sails full set and flying

through the sacramental sea,

or becalmed and drifting,

shipping oars and trusting

to the providence of God.

Sailing by the stars,

encountering demons,

storms without, within;

what was important was the journey,

delayed by God to teach them secrets

of the ocean, their inner lives.

Fearless they braved the angry sea

but still they feared the final journey

we all must travel to God’s presence,

into the dark unknown.

From Death, New Life

There is life

in the death

of the old oak,

lying where it fell;

its peeling, rotten bark

a home for insects

and for many types

of beetle. Bright

coloured, fruiting fungus

breaks out in clusters.

Moss and lichen

grow, and hornets nest.

Woodland birds, tits

and redstarts flit

around the broken branches.

Ivy and bramble thrive;

new plants arrive

from dark crevices.

All around the sunny

woodland glade

bright flowers grow:

foxgloves, coralroot

and orchids; creeping jenny,

spiked star of Bethlehem.

All things obey

this logic of decay,

this letting go,

to let new life grow.

Mount Snowdon

How can it dare

to be so high?

Of the earth

but of the sky.

Raw beauty whipped by winds,

and cut so sharp and steep

to snatch the breath away

just looking.

Raw terror checked

by my firm foothold,

so far above the ice blue lake

and shining crystal rivers.

Now with a sense of every sense

suspended in the silence

and the healing stillness.

And at once aware,

with all my being rapt

in wonder,

of some seeming presence

ineffable and other,

there in this untamed

threshold of the heavens.

I thought I could

imagine God out walking,

or there to snatch me

like an eagle

with swift wings.

A joy to see it

for a moment all uncovered

in its naked beauty;

but then a squall,

a shifting cloud to mask it all.

Not hard

to imagine hell,

if I’d gone up

in other weather

Summer Watering

Rhubarb curls and flaps its ears,

gurgles with pleasure.

Parsley is frisky like a lamb,

while sage shrinks like a young child

in a shower.

Chives sound grateful,

firm up and squeak;

fennel sucks in delight.

Dill shines brightly like a cobweb,

while coriander just looks drowned.

Rosemary flexes its muscles,

giving off its sweet odour.

Weeds frown and nettles scowl,

as roses glisten, foxgloves dance

and evening primrose opens in a smile.

Hosed down and dripping,

the garden is visibly glad.

Book Aid*

At least I’m saved

from languishing unread

in the darkest corner

of the bargain basement.

Freed from months in shrink-wrap,

I’m drawing breath

under African skies,

travelling to far off

exotic parts,

even if I’m wobbling

high up in a smelly crate,

exposed to flies and swatting tails,

desert heat and camel dung.

I’m participating in

the camel library

to nomads and refugees;

I’m here to nourish

those in need.

Even if I’m not remembered,

I’m bound to be well-thumbed

and I’ll never, never, be remaindered.

*The Charity

The Station Mass*

Quarry tiles and copper pots and pans,

cabbage smells and hanging hams,

kitchen chairs, old oak table, the priest’s soutane.

We in our Sunday best, all spick-and-span,

solemnly breaking bread, recalling, we believe,

life given that we may receive.

Around the kitchen table, love released;

Eucharist becomes agape feast.

Now we seem able,

at the kitchen table,

to act more tolerantly,

to look at someone differently.

Not letting virtue displace—

or get in the way of—grace.

Seeing in each one something

loveable and loving;

original beauty we recall, reteach;

others heal and mend a breach.

All now sharing, gratefully accepting;

all differences forgetting.

*Irish house Mass

Along the Ridge

Between us

no word spoken

in the sunset’s afterglow.

Winter stripped

down to zero

in the falling mist

along the ridge.

Stillness broken,

crows cawing,

echoing, re-echoing

in the bare trees.

Songs From Solitude

On the Night Tide

Delayed by Rough Seas

Watching for the Wind

Echoes from a Far Shore

The Music of the Ocean