Ceasefire for the Sexes

I hate what we have become

Us siblings

Pitted against each other from puberty

Either divided and ruling

Or divisive and ruled.

Missing out on mutual flourishing

A destructive relationship

if ever there was one.

.

Men have blamed women always –

it was Adam’s second sin in the garden –

And then women were cursed to desire and resent them.

But we were (re)born to go beyond our ancestors

and to trust and understand what once they feared.

.

And we can fear to love because we think that love is unclean.

Yet surely it cannot be purity

When we distance those who give us life.

It insults the very Gospel

of the Son of Man who spent time with women

and looked to their souls not their sex.

.

I know of these things only partly

And often through a screen darkly, but

The way I’ve come to think is that

Sex should not be a battleground.

We are more united and

diversity is in high demand.

I don’t want to fight or fear my brothers

and we shouldn’t need to fear all attraction.

Honestly.

How I wish that sex would once again just mean

intercourse

and not war.

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Spirit groans and growing pain

I look down at the stars on my jumper

as I sigh

And I think of those Peruvian skies

Just northeast of Huánuco.

The entire sky was sprinkled with silver

Like molten metal dripping through a colander –

And yet you promised Abram that many children.

*

I run my fingers through my hair

as I try

to grasp that what I am reading is happening.

It grows back in patches where I’ve stress-pulled it,

kinking awkwardly beneath my curls –

And yet you know every strand.

*

I scale down my hopes and dreams

as I cry

at the million ways this world is dying and unkind

and really wonder how I’ll keep going

when the going is so bloody tough.

And yet you gave me my life and have kept me growing.

*

Emmanuel –

God the stranger who makes his home with us –

Help us keep on loving

and come quickly, Lord Jesus.

A Winter Solstice Psalm

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest…

– Isaiah 9:2-3 (NIV)

Bare birches stand out like
Anorexic zebras on a savannah
Just outside Sunningdale…
And I am thinking of you again.
.
The year is nearly ended;
The darkness has reached a zenith;
The world still reeling at such pain…
But I have started to sing again.
.
I hear soft playing in the evening
Like prayers coming out through a piano.
Our treasure we hide in our junk rooms…
And I have started to dream again.
.
People in this city can be terrible
Delaying confirmation for a better invitation
When you reach out to make connections…
Yet I have started to hope again.
.
‘As long as there are people…’
People kind like you,
I’ll believe in hope and fight for love:
For what I trust is true.

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbour, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘God is in the Manger’

Gloria in Infernos

This poem was specially written for a modern-day adaptation of the Nativity story at Holy Trinity church in Clapham, South West London, on 10th Dec 2016. In it, the shepherds to whom the Angel appears are translated into door supervisors aka bouncers, who, like the shepherds outside Bethlehem, work night shifts and would not expect to be the first to be officially told about the birth of royalty. Infernos is a nightclub on Clapham High Street (which lies within Lambeth Borough).

*

While bouncers watched the club by night,
all standing round the door
An Angel of the Lord came down
And they fell to the floor.

‘Chill out’ he said, for mighty dread
Had struck them dumb as well
He said ‘It’s fine, I’ve got good news
And you’re who we want to tell!’

“This evening Lambeth borough here
Has had a royal birth!
He’ll change the lives of you and them
And everyone on Earth.

The kid’s been born just up the road
Behind a B&B
It’s fully booked, but round the back
A garage nursery!”

That’s what he said – God’s honest truth –
And then they start to sing!
This massive choir – from the sky!
About this baby King.

So off they go to take a look
And sure enough he’s there.
Just humbly wrapped in Primark sheets
No cot from Mothercare.

So praise our God who loves his flock
And give peace to our town
That bouncers were the first to know
When God himself came down.

The Tortoise and the Porcupine

You burst out
And I retract
Sometimes you are too harsh for me
Your wits too spiky
Your words they stab me
Though you are just stretching
Scattering random blows for fun
Nothing really aimed at me
But it makes me fear what you say
When I am not there.
.
I’m a tortoise and you’re a porcupine;
we are strange friends perhaps.
My shell seems stone-like
But I’m so soft beneath
That self-defence is a necessity
All I can do sometimes
Is put distance between me and
The thing that stings –
On this occasion, you.
And you are the opposite:
Prickling at what hurts,
Sharpness taking me by surprise.
.
It’s like
We both taste poison in the water
But whilst I cry it out
You just spit
And I’m hit
In the heart
By the words that you emit.
.
What can I do to love you
When I share my vulnerability
And you unwittingly
Cause me pain?
And how on earth do I tell you
that it hurts?

Filling

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

– 1 Corinthians 13 v 8 (NIV)

I’d rather be empty of certain knowledge

than a proud and friendless connoisseur.

Because I used to be the latter,

and filling the void with stuff

only expanded the cavity.

I would cram myself with media

Gorge on TV, drink in the radio

and drain the local library weekly

Trying desperately to hoover up

all I could about life and my fellow man

to the detriment of my social skills

when I should just have studied them

out in their natural habitat

as a participant observer.

I know that this is a false dichotomy

And trust me that I still love to study

But to put my identity in what I consume

Is an attempt I completely reject.

I freely admit

I know less now

Try to own less now

and believe fewer things for certain,

Letting my learning flow like water,

but I fear no FOMO

and am 100 times happier

because I know love

which we all need like oxygen.

When all else passes away

still I will be able to say

I lived a full life

and I think when push comes to shove

people are more important than things

Plus what is more

I’d rather have loved and missed out

than never have opened my heart.

Holy Day

Come away, weary soul
Drink in this mile wide sky
And soak yourself in sun.
It’s time for your vacation.

Gorge yourself
Run through the fountains
Laugh in the sparkling rain
Bathe in the extravagance
He lavishes on those he loves.

There is Sabbath for everyone
In His good sweet timing.
Turn on the Out Of Office
Without fear or guilt
For you are worth SO much more
Than all you produce or sell or teach
Yes, you sow much less than you reap
And that is exactly as it should be.

Stop; just to see the flowers
And gaze at the mountains and the sea
This land was not laid in vain
It sings and whispers
of the most generous of loves
A beauty strewn like the stars,
Like the jewels of a bride
Who beams to speak of her groom.

This day
Was set apart
For you.