Sculpting the river of my week

Kierkegaard

If anxiety takes a firm grip, then look down at the wild flower at your feet and up into the heavens at the birds flitting joyfully in the air

Robert Besson
Translate the invisible winds by the water it sculpts in passing

So to my week:

• On a silent walking retreat my soft heal crushes a snail into a shocking brown-greenness.
• In a mindfulness class I arrange spider plant (with babies attached) and a succulently small money tree so they are both at the centre of our shared circle of intent. While holding in my hands the third natural teacher (a dead fungus filled stump that was once a verdant Kalenchoa), we all sit and count our breath.
• I iron my orange shirt for todays marriage of a seventy-year-old guide leader to her scouting sweetheart. The creases eventually cannot resist the heat.
• I practice songs for next weeks cremation of a vibrant local boxer until the mechanical call of an NHS text reminds me of my own hospital visit. Smiling I realise that I will check in for signs of cancer on the same day I sing as he checks out for and from the same.
• Encouraging the fly, I flap my arms while he, or she, repeatedly hits the glass and belligerently misses his or her freedom to vomit over the grassy dog poo just outside the counselling front door.
• I spend many evening hours, over four days, crafting a poem evidently too pious, too repetitively derivative and self-conscious to share. Celebrating unfixing myself from insecurity and fixed view-point I post the poem on my blog regardless.
• Closing the door to the dog poo, I listen to confusion and hurt within relationship.
• I listen to withdrawal and concrete thinking.
• I listen to anxiety and lowness, anxiety and slowness, and forms of anxiety that meet unknowing complexity with palpitations and screams from inside.
• I listen to sexual and intimate delicacies.
• I read emails of thanks and connection, direction and guff.
• I listen and read and listen and learn and listen and interject maybe too much, certainly, this is too much, I say, too much, too much, and after its done I call all this stuff, my exhausting, thoughtful, heart expanding, working, contracting, intimately searching and ultimately, at the end of three days, I breathe with release and relief from another instalment of these fee paying weeks
• and yet
• Today I meet friends and family who too are sharing, who are struggling, who are marrying, who are dying and mourning, rejoicing and worrying too hard and too long, who are avoiding and connecting and flourishing, rejoicing and sharing their joy in fellowship and song, who are quietly anxious, depressed, or just happy, gregarious and maybe withdrawn, stressing to futures, regretful, forlorn and for each and all of this wonderful otherness, I call them my life, my riches, my home.

Wakefulness begun

St Therese to chaplain Piere Belliere, in 1897,
a few months before her death at age 24:

I am not dying, I am entering into life.

Wakefulness again begun.
Bleeding free upon glimpsed shards of Luminous trust
that mysteriousness between this and this
sensational suffering mind.

yes

quietly wake to still
this and this constantly re-fining will
re-fuel oneself to wait upon

that still small Voice

that Glittering Jewel

that active, in-active othering choice
to re-ignite in blessed hoped for souls renewal
by sinking-in ankle deep
that Ground grown moist
from leakages of wonton wounds and size nine feet

Now

to stretch those tiny toes deeply deep
into that oozing boiling balm
that heated hopeful weight full ness
immersions that convert alarm to dozing daze and waits to be
replenished and be-calmed in fertile fires and shining mists
of Love and Grace said to exist beyond this and this
pre-occupied pre-possessed never ended re-positioning of grasp and cling to
flesh and bone and time and test.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

Thinking about Museums

I have excavated this from one of my old journals:

Feb 2007:

Today I spotted a National Portrait Gallery painting of Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin aged 75.  This Nobel prize winner for chemistry and ex University of Bristol big wig was pictured furiously, nay, many handedly writing important stuff on scraps of paper while surrounded by brightly assorted gob-stoppers stuck on a miniature roller coaster of stickle brick type proportions. This chemical Meccano type construction was placed untidily before her on what looked like a kitchen table and I thought now that’s a lady I need to question more deeply:

Questions to D.M. Crowfoot-Hodgkin (1910-1994)

Where did you get your drive and your single-minded abandon
your freedom from fashion, your joy for refraction,
your brilliant electrical brain?
And how did keep your spark alive,
did you delve the B12 and magnify the question
did you ruminate while rheumatoid ruined circulation
and how on earth did you understand simultaneous equations
and the balls and sticks and mathematics of your chemical creations?

Did your emerald gown graze the floor when you got Nobelled in ’64
did you dance and laugh and belch and glide,
on the music and the bubbly and the sheer self pride
and between ‘71 and ’88, Ms Dorothy Chancellor Crowfoot. H
did your passion overflow in the science class
were your lectures loved to bits, did your students pass
or as a Bristol University figure head
did you bury yourself in research instead?

But back to that oil at 75, it says:
you really lived while being alive,
says despite, hair sight short white knuckle-twist and bend,
you groped and gripped and grappled truth until your very end.

(This poem was written in response to Maggi Hambling’s oil on canvass, 1985, which was part of the ‘Work Rest and Play exhibition’ at Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery, Jan-April 2007)

An ode to sleeplessness and pain.

Your

suicide
dial
reports
soars
digging deep
into
petal sharp
flex
of
inverted
pride.
scoring
soft
flesh
you say
drains
thought
poppies thought
too
sickly weak
to
salve
numb
fumbling
regrets
of
past
pressed
days.

still.

fidgetting
with courage
you
continue
to name
marauding
nights
touched
distantly
in said
blood clots.
you
scratch
to grip
to
gulp too

tap
tap
tap.

fingering
your sayings
tap, tap
moves we
to call and response
Water
Sister?
No, not that
and pushing
down
preciously
down upon
your plastic teat

you

trickle
sweet saltings of sweat you
imbibe wounds until
they hatch
in overwhelming
whelps of weep-ful-ness
while
in otherness
aches and strains
invite us both
to once again
card-board chew through
battle fallow fields
to warp the walk
from
ego stress.

till
till
tilling
un-
countable
fillings of
past soiled
future
sores
intimate
groans
and
sleepless ness
distanced
becomings
re-erect themselves
in this now
upon
hoarding pillars both
bile and blue
spent and
deformed
with these new
warming
spirits despaired
and passed
between us
in momentary
fragmented
truth

rest awhile

my broken flower

yes

you

my fullness of
stiff regret
breathe and stretch and
profess
movements to soften
further
varicose spills of
forty per-cent
night-time
armistice

you of this
new hope-ful-ness
wishing to
ward off
immersed
confusions of chemical lash
burning yearnings that
crisp the crust, that
deadens dawning grief
in low familiar
yawning dusk
flow slow from
those darkening swills
that translucent soak
so melting here the
salted cubes this
fleshed disbelief
may dis-

appearing again ‘for Christ’s sake,’ you say

‘surely,’

you pause to re-orientate to re-find your currently wearing face within this worn out journal stock:

‘surely, this time, I’ll re-find relief and solid ground within this rolling reef, this ice bound rock.’

and

watching
as you regather
as your precious life
leaves in my lap such

absurdly poetic

stuttering words

of

thanks

I wonder at your strength

I ponder over your wisdom-filled beauty 

Shall we see
shall share again these un-
speakable, most legible most
tenderful privileges of groundings
grown deep within
these suffering joys, these
witnessings of transforming pain.

Whoever is willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to herself, that person is a pleasant shelter…It is enough to recognise one’s nothingness and to abandon oneself, like a child…

St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), aka: ‘The Little Flower.’

(Quoted from Richard Rohr: Eager to Love p.111 & 114).

 

Burning in the choppy seas of desire

Pondering on the news that a massive tanker (The Sanchi)

is ablaze and may explode after colliding with a cargo ship 300 kms from Shanghai

An odourless colourless

poisonous threat

prepares to explode

within my flat screen

state of the art

TV set.

And so:

I press the pause button

to make more tea

and cut a slice more cake

as one million barrels

boil and burn and smoke most

thickly

in some indistinct

East China sea.

Tis but a tiny drop

a mere tanker-load

to invisibly

decimate

Korean fish stock and

Shanghai landscape.

A mere monumental blip

to the sailing of the seas

to satiate this first world grip

of post festive need

for us to drive the last mile

to pile up 50% off

bargain bucket guff

from city centre shops, themselves, poor things

struggling to conceive

new ways to re-package

old shit and to sell more

ever more

to those ever ready

to be completely

overstuffed with overheated

greed.

And while our thwarted desires

burn endlessly in some far off

China sea

online search engines

continue to earn invisible billions

by filling hundreds of thousands

or maybe millions of brown boxes

with polystyrene chips and tiny

incidental gifts

automatically sent

while we are otherwise engaged

by the underperforming underpaid

self-employed diesel waged

carriers

who once more

fly poste-haste

to drop tomorrows ‘hot’

unwanted waste

outside our neighbours closed front door.