Monday, June 06, 2016

Dürnstein Remembrance

The image at the end of this poem started me thinking after a visit to the village churchyard in Durnstein, during a cruise on the Danube, and the poem followed a fortnight later.

Dürnstein Remembrance

Wachau vines, embroider meadows beside the Danube, green on green.
The soil that succours them once drank the blood of men
fighting for visions and ambitions not their own.

No time to gather the fallen, beckoned by destiny to another victory afar,
the harvest of death abandoned to the mercy of others
who tended orchard and pasture here, bonded to the land by ancestry and affection,
compassion and hospitality their work of art.

There behind the walled village church,
rising over groomed memorials, greensward and gravel
another sanctuary rises, sparse and simple, a terminus for parting gestures,
while earth is broken open to receive its latest guest and the prayer of those left behind awaiting the resurrection.

Beneath the mourners lies a vault visible from the threshold,
holding in neat dismembered order the bones of thousands,
sojourning here since their last battle.
Anonymous, yet still recognised.
Victims of that unforgotten fateful day.

The humble folk who shouldered the burden of bearing the fallen
to their rest, have no memorial. Striving to re-order their lives,
unwittingly they made this common tomb a place of pilgrimage.

The enclosing porch to this gated realm of present grief and the ancient dead
shelters Christ hanging naked and alone upon His cross, embracing all
His arms fixed eternally by iron, extended there in defiant self-offering.

There, embracing known and unknown alike,
There, inspiring compassion that makes us human
There appealing for all whose death seems to have so little meaning,
from our bleak distant vantage point.

Between His transfixed hand and the wood of sacrifice
a sparrow's nest is perched. An improvised, transient pile of gathered twigs
brings for a season the sound of birth and new life, a mere fragment
of perennial birdsong consoling the shadows cast
by sunlight, by sorrow, by the passage of time.


Monday, November 02, 2015

Coming to terms with emptiness

An undated fragment from a notebook written following the unexpected death of brother in law Eddie Colvill on St Luke's Day, but given the date of All Souls Day.

How can I write my tears?
Where can I set them down
and gaze at the wonder
of love that gave them birth?

There is only aching
restless misery in
endless moments of loss
transfixed by the void here
between the fullness of the past
and a future yet to be revealed
whatever it may contain,
good or ill.

All certainty is gone
Seemingly helpless
faced only with
the perennial struggle
to conquer fear
to be found by peace
in the eternal present.

JKK 02/11/2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The toast

Written in Nerja after attending the banquet of a young couple whose marriage I had blessed earlier in the day.

The toast
Long life and happiness
was what they wished for you
at each stage of your journey.
Setting out alone or together,
In parting and re-union.
the lasting gift of good will -
love in the sign of a raised cup.
And always,
the barely audible question
uneasily voiced – how long?
How long does joy or sorrow last?
How long is waiting - together or apart?
Living provides all the answers.
As time passes, each new toast proposed,
the same question is tinged,
less with fear and more with gratitude;
for all that has been, still is and ever will be.
How long – we’ve had? And have been blessed!
The light of life well lived shines on,
despite the end to come.
It’s not that darkness overwhelms
as our poor light seems to pale
and fade to nothingness.
It’s unseen, uncreated light
that hides us, in love’s incandesence
abiding at last where truly we belong.

JKK 16.05.15

Friday, November 15, 2013

Meditation on open hands

This was written partly during a church quiet day in La Cala de Mijas, and over the days following, in response to a meditation given on the same theme by lay Reader Caroline McFarlane.

Sitting underneath the fig tree
pondering the mystery of
the Word revealed in simple things ….

An open hand speaks of welcome
trust and peace, of supplication,
self-giving and self-abandon.

And yet -

An open hand delivers the
blameless one to condemnation

An open hand with anger strikes
the face of compassionate love

An open hand is bound and pierced
by crucifying cruel steel

Though not before ...

An open hand receives and bears
with gladness the victim's burden

An open hand wipes clean the brow
of bloody sweat and sorrow's tear

An open hand stretches with sponge
to wet parched lips as death draws near

And there is more ...

An open hand in greeting raised
speaks of triumph over evil

An open hand in pardon sweeps
away the shroud of guilt and shame

An open hand in blessing sends
forth witnesses to gracious love

An open hand reaches out and
takes Christ's gift of himself revealed
in living bread and wine outpoured.

We, mindful of many meanings,
offer in trust these open hands
each to each, and to the Other.

J.K.K. 14.11.13

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unsual weather

This was written as I reflected on an unusual weather event during my stay last summer in Nerja Andalusia,.

Nerja - foggy afternoon

Sun's fierce heat bleaches the promenade, high above the shore:
regal balcony from which to gaze with equal eye at the sea's horizon
keenly defined against the pale backdrop of midday sky.

Midsummer passers-by find respite in the avenue of noble palm trees
enlivened by parakeet chatter and glimpses of small silent butterflies.
Their shade reconciles visions of tranquil seascape
with the festive summer bustle of El Salvador plaza,
humming with the leisure of lunchtime table talk.

Shrieking swifts swirl above like clouds of dust
their conviviality curtailed by relentless need to feed upon the wing,
flirting hastily with spaces in between the giant fronds of leaves
granting them shade and shelter too.
Much movement, sound and colour diverts the mind.

The far horizon's gradual effacement goes unheeded.
Over the sea, taller than a steeple, rolls with stealth a wave of cloud.
It suddenly plunges the plaza into autumn mist and chill, 
subduing conversation, astonishing birds and sun seekers alike.
Beaches empty, shivering devotees seek refuge
in warmer welcoming boutiques and hostelries.

Before it claims stark sierras enfolding the coastal plain,
this foretaste of a season still to come,
halts and hovers uncertainly before the sun's glare
in orchards, bamboo groves and parking lots
intersecting highways, arousing apprehension in travellers,
lapping the land – just as tide caresses shore – albeit silently.

This insubstantial wave recedes as swiftly as it came,
heralded only by the return of light and shade, warmth and colour
to the promenade, with sight of sky and swirling swifts
arousing fresh anticipation of social moments al paseo.

High summer still it is, after the drama of the day.

J.K.K. 20.10.13

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Seasonal affective disorder?

During an office tidy-up session, I found a sheet of paper with a few lines written this time last year during the annual Ty Mawr Associates' Day meeting. We were invited to draw or write something that reflected on being there together at Michaelgarth as a group of people pledged to accompany the Sisters of the Sacred Cross in their life of contemplative prayer and closeness to nature in their beautiful hillside location. 
It was a fairly overcast day with only moments when the landscape shone in a way that is familiar to all who have visited there, in season and out of season. In the absence of blue sky and sunshine, I struggle to rise to my usual sense of appreciation of the world about me. I guess I also struggle with the absence of regular attachment and belonging to a close-knit everyday discipleship community now that I serve as an itinerant locum pastor. So, these few lines are a muted echo of this experience, as much as they are a weather report.

Autumnal day at Ty Mawr

Overcast sky
a random tapestry-
filaments of white and grey

Sombre does no justice
to the mood
when heaven's glory is concealed

Not in the cloud, but
is where we wait
consoled by fleeting sunbeams.

J.K.K. - 20.10.12

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Faith our outward sense befriending

I find solace and hope in the world as sacrament, yet it's often in darkness or in harsh places that I am brought vigorously to my senses and caused to wonder. He's a collection of finds from the unidentified files of my archive, from the years when I travelled Wales, working for the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

In the hour before the night
reluctantly surrenders
to a pale grey dawn,
a lone bird's song sweetens
the chill dank air.

It enters that nether world
where dreams and waking thoughts mingle -
where the doubts of day begin
to take their shape -
and rings a carillon of hope
in times uncertain.

"As sure as I am herald of the morn
 here on this bare bough
 through seasons harsh and fair
 to welcome the return of light,
 love will prevail.
 And even in defeat and darkness
 will not ultimately fail."

J.K.K. - 5.1.87

Spring at Ty Mawr

The song of the bird
The soaring wind
The rustle of unfolding leaves
The dash and sparkle of bright brook
The stillness of dew decked blossom
call out 

"Who will accompany us in homage
to the source of our wonder?"
As shadows shrink
in quiet meadows,
the dawn Angelus declares
the stirring of an answer.
J.K.K. -10.5.88

Blind faith

Years of walking in darkness,
no moon or star to guide the way:
easily deceived by occasional glimmer;
progress too often a daunting deception;
existence, a hoping against all hope:
secured from oblivion by nothing more
than a promise,
the distant echo of a voice
saying "Follow......"

And then, without warning
to stumble into the light!
Senses amazed and agonised
in their release
overwhelmed with confusion
as the shadows flee
and the Word is once more confirmed

"He who calls you is faithful, and will do it."

J.K.K. - 18.12.89

Spartylea November 

Gaunt winter trees
roar at the chafing wind.
Empty fields etched by
stone walls in sparse grass
await the return
of long gone husbandmen.
Centuries seem to slip away
un-noticed here.
There is day and night
and mist.
Only the river seems to know
its purpose -
and the grey houses
that are bastions of warmth
and gentleness.
J.K.K. - 1.11.90

Annecy, late August 1992 
We awaken to the first chill of autumn
to the sound of rain and complaint of thunder,
gathering clouds obscuring distant peaks.
We rise reluctantly and shivering;
first light to sunrise is a long vigil.
Single scorched leaves flutter gently earthward
among the glistening droplets: parched earth and
forest offer oblations of white mist,
reducing mountains to dark veiled shadows.
Morning arrives, then feigns to leave again.

J.K.K. - revised 12.8.95