2. Home

Photo by Lea Böhm on Unsplash. For Day 2 of the November Poem A Day Challenge. A Poem for when the unexpected triggers memories of home.

**

It hangs heavy
on the heart, its heft
never ever far away it seems,
always lurking, always waiting
always ready to spring to life
to the lines of a song suddenly
borne on the wind, or the whiff
of mothballs, unlocking the memory
of the gathering, and of ritual.

Hers is a name that lingers
on your tongue, sometimes forgotten
but then remembered
in the things we least expect.

1. Finding Home

For the November Poem-A-Day challenge. A poem about Entering, but mainly about leaving…

**

On the days when I wake
to a haze hiding the lushness
of the valley below, its shadow
hanging heavy like a shroud
on limbs shrivelled by the ravages
of time, I ponder the bland bleakness
of air heavy with water, how it smothers
life, and the beauty of things.

Each day where the light yields
to the pressure of collapsing space,
and time seems stilled, when the
tenacity of hope is tested
by the roiling reality of the things
which seem certain, I reach
for the small light of the things
that I remember, a thin thread, a tether,
somehow holding out against
the testing threats of the present,
guiding me home.

Awe

For The Sunday Muse Prompt # 128:

**
When Neil and Buzz
reached the top of the world
their feet ensconced
in the very dust
from whence they came they left in awe
at the fragility of things,
at how the pale blue dot
they left behind hung
as though by an invisible thread,
shimmering with the ethereal beauty
of the light lent it by the sun.
Butterflies fluttered
on their insides, their hearts
set free by the joy of seeing
in that place where gravity fades.

** Finally posted after hours of fiddling about with WordPress’ new block editor.. Fair to say I deeply resent being forced to use it… 😦

Of Hymns and Poetry-ing

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

**

For all my flirtation with being prodigal, I have never quite managed to untether myself from the Pentecostal faith tradition, especially the hand-clapping, foot-stomping, tongue-blasting, frenzied version that is your typical Nigerian church. There have been times I have felt right at home in a subset of it – my Eket days, and latterly, my sojourn in the ‘Deen come to mind – but for the most part, it has always felt designed for the loud and the intense, to the detriment (and inadvertent?) exclusion of those of us who live on the more introspective side of the spectrum. Not being blessed with the gift of nimble footwork, or being particularly willing to apply myself to acquire the skills involved if I’m being honest, Thanksgiving Sundays in that tradition were a veritable minefield, partaken in with the threat of being stuck behind an overly expressive dancer an ever-present danger.

When I have had the choice, I have gravitated to less exuberant – even orthodox – expressions of worship, thanks to an ongoing fascination with hymns. It is yet another one of the ways H’s long reach continues to colour the present. Many moons ago, she threw herself with great gusto into beating a ragtag group of non-professional singers into a semblance of a choir at the University Chapel we attended growing up. as I recall, whilst there were more than a few hairy moments, their enthusiasm was never in doubt. For all the stirring a clappy, happy, dancy song can bring, I think there is a certain gravitas a hymn can bring to a worship experience that is inherently different, and dare I say useful. The often arcane language surely helps, in the same way the King James’ Version still has its attraction amidst the plethora of more modern translations and paraphrases.

Choice in worship has been one of the boons of the lockdown for me, as it has for quite a few people if the numbers of people trying Alpha Online are anything to go by. I fear that for all the runction about churches and physical meetings particularly in America, not a lot has been said about the opportunities decoupling worship from place presents. Of course, there is the argument that too much choice perpetuates the idea of worship as something to be consumed rather than participated in, with the ability to hop around online enabling a search for an experience which soothes rather than one which challenges. I am grateful for the choice though, given the restrictions first of disease, and now distance.

It is a similar way I feel about poetry, for which I am thankful for the return of the second season of my favourite poetry podcast, Poetry Unbound. I suspect Pádraig Ó Tuama’s Irish lilt contributes to the sense of serious contemplation each episode brings, as does the care and thought clearly given to the selection of each poem. It helps that he is a theologian too.

In the introduction to the first episode of this second season which features Ada Limon’s Wonder Woman, Pádraig opines that poetry is “interested in stopping in small moments and telling the story of that moment”. It is the same way a hymn can hold a present reality and a future expectation in tension without breaking us. In my own pretend poetry practice, I find that the structure of a rigid form can often be what forces some semblance of sanity to arise from the depths of a chaotic emotional experience. Many of the Psalms sound like this, this conflation of poetry and prayer.

The other thing which triggered the journey down this path was listening to Steven Furtick’s message from last Sunday, another one of the gifts the lockdown brought. It includes a segment, from about 12:47 in, in which he goes back down memory lane and riffs on a few good oldies, capped off by two of my favourite hymns, including one I haven’t heard in a very long time (Come Ye Disconsolate).

In that same introduction to Season 2 of the Poetry Unbound pod, Pádraig says that poetry helps you “to cast your eye on small moments that can give you some fortitude [and] that can help you through”. That is a real-world definition of faith, isn’t it?

* Originally posted in A Prodigal Abroad, my (usually) Friday evening letter from the edge of the world… You can subscribe here.

Prodigality

For The Sunday Muse prompt #122:

**
We have carried
our bodies to a far country,
the weight of the burden
of the duty of sons
driving us like a ship
heave-hoing in a stormy gale
to the place where our kin
were brought before.

Each day we toil
amongst the living
to save the ones
we hurt by leaving,
the labour of our bent backs
a libation poured on dry earth,
to appease the spirits
of the old ones. This
is our penance, a prayer
sung to the tune
of the songs handed down.

We the born, and those
who were borne
will someday shake
the shackles of shiny things
and like prodigals
find our way home.

Hope

For The Sunday Muse prompt #121. After Emily Dickinson.

**
Hope is the thing
that shimmers
in the distance
the faint light
flickering in the
brooding stillness
of the afternoon heat,
the persistent promise
that this thirst, this
longing for restoring
will be sated by rain.
It is the pulse
quickening with the
lengthening shadows
of evening and the
return of familiar
sights to the eyes.
It is home
calling the lost son
to return to the
dangerous duty
of tending.

Disappearing


For The Sunday Muse Prompt #116. Image “Seeing Black & White” photography by  Susie Clevenger

**
Yesterday’s ghouls
are slowly disappearing,
fading like the night light
once bright but now dappled,
wisps of grey carried away
in our slipstream,
lingering like the dust
a knight’s steed leaves
in the frenzy of flight.

But the promise is a mirage,
objects in a mirror
are closer than they appear
and though we run
as though the wind bears us,
yesterday’s shadow lurks
in the space between
the things we leave
and the things that
disappear