me and ducklings as child

This poem grew step-by-step treading of the ancient path through West France, one of many that eventually converge to join the coastal and mountain routes across the Pyrenees to Santiago. William Blake’s universe in a grain of sand is embedded in there somewhere, along with the longing for the soul friend; Rumi refers to the divine as The Friend and pilgrimage somehow made clear for me the sense that this is found in friendship, the shared path and the eye of the physical world, humanity immersed through the senses in nature.

me child rucksac

The fruit of a lifetime
Falls to the earth.
It is broken open in the falling
As it hits the ground.
In the split there is a seed,
And in the seed there is a space.
Within the space there lies a path
And on the path is a person.
The person is praying,
‘Let me bear fruit for the world.’
There is no peace in the person,
But they hunger for peace.
There is no wholeness either,
And this is why they walk.
The other prayer is ‘Send me help lord’,
For their burden they cannot carry alone.
Deep inside they are missing,
A place, a friend, a meaning.
In this missing they become ‘pilgrim’,
And their heart’s longing leads them on.
Inside this longing is a space,
Self-emptying space of potential.
And also what cannot be hidden,
The waste of so many lifetimes.
With each step this space
Is falling and breaking on the path.
As left and right, so inside and out,
The heart is broken in the separation.
Sacred spaces cluttered with symbols,
And the vacuous suburbs of the towns.
In the smothering domestication,
Shadow of the abandoned mother.
And the collapsing communities
Where man and woman flee each other.
Laden down the pilgrim bears witness,
The ache, the split, the wound.
Within this awkward embrace
There lives such a beautiful seed.
The seed is human flesh beating
To be known for itself in love.
Within this deepest love
There sounds a word.
A word appearing as form,
Within the silence.
The pilgrim waits in peace
And in the waiting says ‘yes’.
From the horizon walks the Friend
And in this meeting is the whole.
Earth sings in response,
The fruit of a lifetime.

on the path camino may 17

labyrinth poitiers

In ten days Sue-Claire Morris and I completed a pied (with a bit of hitch hiking!) the Chemin / Camino Jacque de Compostella from Poitiers to the beautiful city of Saintes. Yesterday we began our return, with four lifts along various sections of the route to the medieval town of Lusignan, finally with a man who took us for tea at his extended family farm and whose brother happened to be driving to our exact destination. And then on to visit the Abbaye de Bonnevaux near Colombiere, where a community and centre for contemplation, action and peace will be opening this summer.

The labyrinth of this pilgrimage has revealed the incredible benevolence of the universe, not from finding a magic key, or because we’ve done something special to deserve it; pilgrimage seems to remind us we are not in control, we are not the centres of our worlds. I have found it is when one surrenders to the path with a simple intention to greet life with grace, gravity, generosity, not grasping the light or hiding from the shadows; that surrender invites the path to rise up to meet you in love. It has also been a test of trust on every level. Carrying tent, camping gear and all we needed on our backs has challenged, strengthened and restored us. Setting out into the unknown, we eventually became known as ‘les pelerins anglaise’, doing it our own way without credentials until at St John Angelou the official pilgrimage office recognised our journey and gave us the certification. So many people, animals, gifts of nature, their strength, resilience and abundance, helped us it’s hard to think of this as just the journey of two people seeking peace. Let it send ripples into the world 🙂 (Below is an account of the longer story).

sue claire bonnevaux

One gift of this pilgrimage is a restored hope in humanity. At every turn and especially in difficulty, getting lost and survival of the elements our path has been intercepted by the most kind, open-hearted and inspiring people, often sharing with us with their own story of suffering and renewal.

 

One day after losing the path several times, we managed to hitch a ride with some Parisian men travelling to the city of Saintes for the last few kilometres of our route to Brioux-sur-Boutonne. They were pretty surprised when we said we wanted to be dropped ‘a la camping’ but warmly understood our motives with a respectful ‘vous avez le courage’. We arrived at the municipal campsite to find it completely empty, but encouraged by a toilet block with abundant hot water we refused their offer of a further lift on to St Jean Angelou and began to set up our tiny red tent. In the middle of this expanse of green it looked like one crimson berry in a flurry of foliage. The rapidly dropping temperatures with bouts of stormy rain we’d braved all day now started to feel more threatening. But warmed by all the activity and thought of finding an auberge for a drink and hot meal, we set out to explore.

Nothing could have prepared us for the deserted strangeness of that town. Not only had the entire road through the centre been dug up for reconstruction, but every single house, shop, restaurant stood shut like huge sleeping faces, doors and shutters firmly closed in hostile silence. We circumnavigated this desolation for at least an hour in hope of finding something open, or at least a person. Nothing! The odd car passed us, tyres splashing in the wet road, eyes staring at our displaced figures swaddled in all the clothes we could manage to carry on our backs. Wet, cold and hungry we conceded to turn back to eat the remains of our picnic in the only dry place open and big enough for two of us, a disabled toilet, and to hunker down to sleep in the tent.

At that moment we were crossing a bridge and a lonely figure was walking towards us. It was a homeless man, laden down with bags, shuffling through the hopeless rain and fading light, face hidden behind a matted beard. It had felt like being in a play by Samuel Beckett, and now I thought, this must be Godot. As he passed us however, we were ejected from our existential angst when he gestured a kind of recognition to us as fellow pilgrims, putting his hand over his heart. By this time we’d reached the middle of the bridge, and it was as though the waters of our pilgrimage broke at that moment, tears of emotion and realization mixing with the rain and the river gushing beneath our feet. In that moment we stood in the place of the immigrant, the refugee, the homeless, the displaced and forsaken populous, experienced the discomfort of their shoes and the aggravation of a mind bent only on survival.

I’m not sure what led us to walk the crumpled road back through the centre of the town, but we did and it was there that Sue Claire spotted a door through an old archway, scattered chairs outside and some hint of a lived-in home. Driven by the kind of heart-mind that comes to the fore when you meet your edge, we decided to knock on the door. The man who became known to us as Saint Patrick soon stood in the doorway along with a waft of warm air. He was immediately moved by our situation and as soon as he knew we were pilgrims needed no further explanation. We were led into his small kitchen which displayed a simplicity and poverty rare to find, but we were invited to sit at his table and eat. A little banquet of tea, bread, cheese, fish, salad. Food had never tasted so good and also to learn that he worked for homeless people in this town and drove people on coach tours to Lourdes, serving food to thousands of pilgrims there, this was music to our ears. Like the whole story of our evening had turned full circle. Patrick sent us out into the night with a spare blanket from his own bed and invitation for hot tea the next morning.

sue claire and st patrick may 17

We spent probably one of the most uncomfortable nights of our life in the pouring rain and cold. But meanwhile our hearts were warming to a new way of seeing the world, a new compassion, an invitation to walk as pilgrims with eyes washed by tears. As St Francis said, the gateway to the kingdom is the way of poverty and humility, of letting go and seeing what gifts then flood in from the most unexpected places.

hitchhiking joy may 2017 france

Frome 2Yesterday was one of those days when life seems to turn a full circle; back with the first taste I had of Frome from Innox Hill five years ago; that very motherly sense when time is bending down, picking you up and setting you back on the road with a fresh view. So comes forth Poem of Frome, another attempt to track a journey 🙂

Poem of Frome

River-like, life moves
Not in lines but folds,
Waves, slowly backing
Then fair, fine, brisk flow
Forward, reaching spring
From freeze to melt and quench.

Frome’s full cycle
I have ridden and walked,
Her web of inward-circling
Old roads, and found fresh
New feet, fellow pilgrims
From dip to crest and wash.

By sound of watery weir
Rushing its changing way,
Quarry train rumbles
A belly of grit undone,
And we swallow the hard
From lock to tongue and sea.

Leaping from tawny wall
To river’s mud and stick,
Red breast colours and leaves
Our winters, just as blue tit
Blends our summers soft
From myth to real and song.

Then there’s the dance,
The never-forgotten circle
Where we moved and seen,
Were held and heard, tipping
To foot’s fall, arm’s reach,
From skin to view and free.

*The name Frome comes from the Brythonic word *frāmā (Modern Welsh ffraw)[7] meaning fair, fine or brisk and describing the flow of the river.

 

Frome 3

Frome 5

Etty Hillesum

On women’s day I’ve been thinking, apart from all the wonderful women I’m fortunate to know, which women have inspired me. Then, perhaps because of the tipping-shifting state of the world, I thought of Etty. The author of An Interrupted Life, Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew, a meditator and peace activist who had her spiritual awakening whilst imprisoned (after which she was eventually gassed) in the Westerbork concentration camp in 1943. It was her amazing and strange affair with Julius Spier (who taught her palmistry and how to wrestle) that gave Etty the emotional toll and language that began her journey into mysticism. The book is a collection of her profound diaries, which only exist because she threw them out of the train window en route to the gas chamber. I just found out today she was hugely inspired by the poetry of Rilke. As well as Dostoevsky and Jung. Here some quotes from her letters:

“I now listen all day long to what is within me, and am able to draw strength from the most deeply hidden sources in myself. I keep following my own inner voice even in the madhouse…I know what may lie in wait for us… I know about everything and am no longer appalled by the latest reports. In one way or another I know it all. And yet I find life beautiful and meaningful… It still all comes down to the same thing: life is beautiful. And I believe in God. And I want to be there right in the thick of what people call ‘horror’ and still be able to say: life is beautiful.”

“Ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness? … Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge-from which new sorrows will be born for others-then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply.”

“Slowly but surely I have been soaking Rilke up these last few months: the man, his work and his life. And that is probably the only right way with literature, with study, with people or with anything else: to let it all soak in, to let it all mature slowly inside you until it has become a part of yourself. That, too, is a growing process. Everything is a growing process. And in between, emotions and sensations that strike you like lightning. But still the most important thing is the organic process of growing.”

http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/an-interrupted-life-the-di…

Unlike Me

April 11, 2017

A kind of poem, memoir and statement of an evolving feminism and poetic activism rolled into one. And today… there are some unseen peacemakers in the world who, like the artist or the healer, drink the poison (the shadow, the unlike, the toxic waste) of a place, country or culture to hopefully open our eyes, wake us up to play our part; this is for them too.

It is
Only
With
Mine
Very
Small
Eye
That
I sees
I am
Another
Statistic
Of women
And Ye men
Who will
Be (I do)
Forever
Replaceable
By an
Eternally
Younger
(Like me
Tho I do
Too) newer
Bomb
Shell
Model

 

It is the bigger broader all-seeing eye of the vast landscape of the world that likes us each in it so truthfully and sees You too just as you are greatly singled out and Me as small as the two-cells-meeting seed I began as yet as wide and free as the life I am ready to birth where we all stand to see each other just as we are held by love and with the banner of

No
More
War
Peace
Justice
Freedom
And hope
For a
Better
World
Waving in
Our hand
Hearing
Heard
At last

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem of La Gomera

February 3, 2017

man-la-gomeraMy poem of this trip in January 2017 ended up as solid rock-like verses, attempts to convey the feeling of meeting this volcanic frontier, in the landscape and in me. From the meaning of Islas Canarias (island of the dogs), there are little echoes of poets that spirited the experience of finding my own ‘black dog’ met by the vast movement, silence, intimacy and music of nature: Manley-Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, Rilke & Jung. Interestingly 8-line poems are called Octaves; resonant of order but also scale, reach and expanse. And find today the late David Bowie wrote a song called Eight Line Poem too… For audio version, see here  https://my.pcloud.com/publink/show?code=XZ8LyAZ9of1vRHmXOynTUKpe8NdmFiplxy7

 

mountain-la-gomeraPoem of La Gomera

First the rock, then the dog,
Then the sweetened bird of gold.
An evolving face of pressed ascent;
Lava and ash, song and bark,
Light on dark and wave on crag,
Frowning forehead of memory,
Copper, black; dark then pink,
Bisected skin of haunch and wing.

me-in-truck-la-gomeraI wouldn’t say my dog is mine,
Not half as fully as my tongue,
It’s looted from my tribal chest;
It’s teeth and weight against my rib,
Was passed to me one day in time,
When milky blind spot opened up
It’s retinal cave, just long enough,
For black hound to run through.

 

boat-la-gomeraOur boat is now a shrunken raft
Before the La Gomerian shore,
This small wild Islas Canarias;
Hardened jaw of trodden fire,
Stroked by the wind, lit by the sun,
Lapped by the constant broken wave,
Whispering, sucking, salted purge,
Birds eye tears melt our approach.

i-want-to-see-you-la-gomeraIt said lie down, animal and you,
Bow before my towering growl,
I want to see you, and your pride,
Lift you to rock that’s higher than ‘I’,
Engulf you in gliding mantle blue,
Vast moving mirror at my feet;
Who is this on the other side of you?
Lift your eye, see it fluttering free.

art-la-gomeraNature, enraptured by this dance,
That carries on ‘tween shore and sea,
Meets her own lover every time
We bring our burden, our black dog,
Our unachievable task of praise,
To her heel, and humbled thus,
Our heartache can bear fruit for us,
And pour translucent light through us.

 

black-dog-la-gomeraThus so the beast will meet the bird,
Sweet music scaled by the deep,
And ah! Bright wings from bristling fur,
Will rise with freshness from the earth.

Because We Are Already Root

December 8, 2016

falling-up-into-treesThis poem is about darkness and light. The language we attach to these polarities. Actually, in the journey of the soul, to the divine, they are the same. It is the naming that divides them. The poem questions, why do we see light as ‘up’, darkness as ‘down’? And what might evolve when these ‘opposites’ come together?

 

 

 

 

 

Because We Are Already Root*

Hidden in dead leaf though we may be,
We are lifting down, down
Into the deepest of days.

A big red moon has fallen,
Through the window, tumbled
Into the blanket of blackness,
Sounding of the constant breath,
Known only in the bone-deep folds
Of the night, its bountiful skin.

Here, through doors of no evidence,
We reach into the traceless;
The travel-empty, no-bag-or-stick journey,
The you-must-rise-and-leave scent
We all must follow, come Spring, come death;
For darkness is as the light to You.

So, refugee of the turning world,
Take comfort, take thy divining rod,
And plunge into the winter waters
Of your soul, its swimming body.
For as She Was Already Root,
So you, in love, are already root.

Drowning in the river though we may be,
We are falling up, up
Into the deepest of nights.

We have lifted, burning red suns,
Into the blanket of brightness,
Sounding echoes of this constancy,
Hidden only in our skin-deep reach,
As the light slowly turns, returns
Its dear face towards us, again.

*(based on a line from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem of Orpheus and Eurydice)

Poem of Evia II

October 14, 2016

dscn8732_master_216a5db5-f28b-471f-a3fd-2b0da551cce2Walking today, a swathe of shoreline
Sprung at me, its stalks giant tall,
And still swaying; the feathery grass
That we had watched dancing,
Brushing against the curve
Of July’s pregnant full moon.

Then we stood, two standing spoons,
Wide silvered faces upturned,
With the sea grazing at our backs,
It’s rhyming ripples mirroring
The cat and fiddle, cow-jumping
Strangeness of a fireside dream.

f-new-moon-2-40-x-34-oil-painting

 

It is the newness new moon now,
Three months on, early October
Dishing out its harvest light,
From just a slit of sickled mouth,
Whispering and licking a fulfilment
That, earth smiles, is yet to come.

 

turner-new-moonRight then, thinking fun sets only over summer,
A copper-shining dog ran, laughing, along the autumn beach.

All was saying,

Ear to Ear,
I am here.

Poem of the Pelion

August 18, 2016

Me shadow PelionIn gratitude for the friendship & beauty, and inspiration of The Moving Archetype, Anilio Centre, June-July 2016

I crossed lands to climb this mountain,
And the mountain climbed into me.
First, it’s fern shadows flickered at my forehead,
Second, it’s pines started their moan-song in my mouth,
A breath further, it’s springs were pooling silver in my chest,
It’s shoreline nudging through my hips, legs, hair,
Mountain foot wetting first my feet, then everywhere.

The mountain climbed inside me!
When it’s tune catches me and lumps rise in my throat,
Volcano fires go tunnelling for escape in my rib cage,
When belly starts echoing, dark abandoned cave,
Gut pulsing as stream gushes into gorge,
I know it is in there saying, in moon’s glisten,
“The nights are a fullness here, stay awake and listen!”

 

Natalia Anilio Chapel 2016It’s message clear as daylight spilling crystal from the cliff;
On this mountain there are places for human passage,
But there are also areas you must not trespass;
And you know full well it is time to wait,
To rest in safety, in complete and even stillness,
When Clio*, muse and gatekeeper, is hoisting up her sign,
And Calliope* holds his palms out, like an icon in a shrine.

In the emptiness, the silence, another voice circles:
“I am This and you are That.
You are This and I am That.
We are defined as we are united.
The centaur and the manifold of gathered gods has made it so.”

 

 

 

 

Martino, Sue Claire, me Pelion beach 16Between the split legs of the valley,
Where the restless water wrestles and breaks free,
The song of Echo* bounces from it’s distraction,
Bringing myriads of this-and-that together in her singing,
Saying, “I have held you here for a reason,
This mountain is your body,
and as you hide within it’s precious fold,
A world is being born anew, it’s name ’til now untold.”

Don’t only trust the mountain’s peak, it’s tablets of stone,
But also Terpsichore’s* shifting body, her dance alongside trees;
Learn faith in how light quivers
against the shade, veiled lovers,
The gurgling child, the re-beginning of sound;
Know that this This-That has re-joined, made a whole,
The mountain both the path beneath, and breathing in your soul.

 

*Clio, one of the nine muses of greek mythology, protectors of art. Clio is the protector of history and scrolls.
*Calliope, protector of poetry and writing tablets.
*Echo, rejected by Narciss, creates distraction so Zeus can evade his wife Hera and make love to the mountain nymphs, so creating new life.
*Terpsichore is protector of dance and the lyre.

Poem Of Evia

August 18, 2016

 

Evia rhodadendrons July 2016There was too much for-giving
For me to write a poem today
The sound of the lute
Is ringing in my ears
And I cannot strike a note
Of the old song I know.

What is the new love chord
That is longing to be plucked
From this tip of tongue
From my inner anger of ear?
To strum it’s footprints-in-the-sand
Along the shoreline of a soul?

Spirit, quite suddenly flocking
Seagulls, a whole circling crowd
Lifting from beach into the wind
Moving across the open sky
Landing; the soil of instinct
Lapping up its persistent waters.

Sunset & feet EviaAnd in this union, a soul is born.
It is the child that has been waiting
Limbs now freed, aloft the crevice
The mother of her innards.

I feel life, before Me
Giving birth to something
Whose mystery is enfolded
Still, in God.

Evia, Greece, July 2016