This Morning’s Poem

This mist on the Woolwich reach
And the glowing smoke of the clipper’s exhaust
Lie on the silver-silted wildfowl beach
Where every cold-shanked creature
From the dipper to the gull to the unemployed teacher
Treads in the silence the morning has enforced.

Silence in the world, frosted, stilled
But a spirit cry of sorrow melts inward ice.
I forgot. Meeting needs has filled
My day and been the building
I’ve been both brick-laying and gilding.
A melody makes me think twice.

It was a new song with a very old thought:
How far did they travel to give their treasure?
How many times wondered, how far the rest they sought?
And continued, purposed, refreshed with a water
Convincing star-seekers the way was getting shorter
And at last, in making a present, take pleasure.

You changed the reason that I should live
From managing to celebrating, from ‘enough’
To so much that I must learn to give
More frequently, more deeply, just to deliver
Others’ blessings, then, with a shiver,
Discover a smooth way that was rough.

I don’t yet do justice to the purpose you bring:
The world changed when you showed us real aid.
Guaranteed that all we do in honour should sing
With inner music, joy appear surprise-springing
Difficult days be the ones bells keep ringing
And I grasp it for a moment, weep, then act unafraid.

I was teaching a GCSE English Literature student about different sorts of rhyme yesterday, thinking about Browning and the Victorians – wanted to push myself to something a little more challenging.

The subject wanders from my window to the music I was listening to last night, my typical preoccupations with provision and purpose, and a very poor attempt to capture some of the joy I felt this morning, remembering that it is all new, that the story of Christmas is definitive, powerful, and that Jesus is the the point. It was as though I had forgotten for a while. Sorry, Lord.

Canning Town

How beautiful the river banks,

Each a slick and shining brown.

The tide now slackens out through town

Past railway sidings, standing tanks.

 

Here reeds are stained and standing thick,

The ducks and gulls squat on the mud

And later comes the brackish flood

But now the silt is dark and slick,

 

Here interrupted by a pile

Half-rotted, stained with grey and green,

There lies a tire, half-sunk, half-seen,

And so on down the winding mile.

 

All the way, from here to the sea,

The Thames retreats from its own bed,

Its mind is changed, intentions fled,

So changeful as the moon we flee.