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.