Wine and Water

A glass of wine might slake the thirst

But water, sure to rest the soul

Runs freer, less in our control,

The next draught swifter than the first.


Yet still we have this drink to share

Through time, across a world made small,

I drink with poets, saints and all

Distracted, dreaming, trying to care.


Blood.  It does not mix with oil.

Another source of cleanliness

To sluice the cuts that nonetheless

Are stinging, tinctured with the soil


Of all the everyday, and night,

The bringer of our rest or pains,

Should heal us as we sleep, but veins

Of running sorrow bleed us white.


So washing off all worry’s marks –

Cold splash of spring-fed water, or

A brassy jug of wine to pour

So rainbows shine in ringing arcs.

Ash Wednesday

The ash still marks my forehead like a bruise,

So rare, this imposition of a state

Quite unlike everyday, preoccupied

By plans and hurried patchings of short time.

A foretaste of a heavenly banquet’s mine –

Indeed, for as I chewed the bread, sipped wine,

I had no other thoughts at all, just hope,

Pure gratitude and joy, joy still and cold

Like shining crystal in a dirty rock.

That is the flavour of the awaited feast –

The freedom from the guilt and daily fear

Of failing tomorrow’s contracted tasks,

Of wasting the chances to write and to keep…

I have no fear of death, he said, but, ah,

To fail!  A thing I have not known, and fear.

I’ve loved to hear Charles Gordon saying that

For all so many years, since still a boy

I saw that desert city burnt, attacked,

Feluccas swarm across the Nile, close-packed

With jibbah-clad jihadists, Gordon stand

Calm and clear of conscience, ready to die

To prove his point.  How dangerous a film!

But I cannot deny it feeds my heart

And so proves that ideas, when acted well,

And scored with mystic themes, pearl-satin skies,

The bittersweet melodies of wanting,

Yes, ideas can outlast the very stars,

For supernovas have exploded since

The pyramids, the Hadrian wall, some books,

Some towns, some very buildings, all of that!

And deserts have advanced across the plains

Since ancients wrote down recipes for thrush

In honey, piglet cooked in brine with herbs.

Much longer then will last self-sacrifice

When isolated in a parched, dry town.

The dust of all the desert, dust of sin,

Can’t choke the throat the spirit wants to loose

And when I sang in worship, welcoming

The news of Easter, still a long walk hence,

I sang despite the dust surrounding me.