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

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Reflections from retirement

I woke up early, thinking about the few poems I'd written, even fewer in recent years, and then began to wonder if I'd posted anything here since I retired three and a half years ago. So I got up and checked, and as a result here's the handful I've written since then, sitting in my study overlooking the gardens of neighbouring houses. The only thing lacking in my quiet corner is a landscape to view. 
I don't know if it's linked, but I have occupied myself with taking photographs in my travels, mostly landscape, and journalling my life in retirement instead  Here are three poems written in Advent 2011 and one in Holy Week 2012

Advent Townscape 

Cloud unbroken lies heavy
beneath the nearest hilltop

draining colour from bricks
and tiles – red or darkest blue

reducing our horizon
to the work of human hands
as far as the eye can see.

The sun visits without
casting shadows to bless us
with perspective or movement

even rain is reluctant to fall
wind to blow refreshment upon us.

Time, it seems, stands still.

Days like this call for endurance
a search for the light within.
JKK 29.11.11

Advent Question

Waiting, waiting, what do we wait for under leaden skies?
Rain and wind whipped darkness encroaching, moon hiding,
street lamps struggling against shadow
that blots out landscape, melts horizons,
leaving us empty, shivering and cold.

Time to turn inward
To that other darkness
where unknowing dwells
present beyond forgetting,
detected by longing
for the invisible radiance of love
that lights the soul and warms the spirit.

The One who comes
is already nearer to us
Than we are to ourselves –
but dare we look?
JKK 13.12.11

Advent Noon

There is no hiding from the sun
beneath the cold-clear sky
in these fleeting days of waiting
whenever cloud takes leave of absence.

It skirts the horizon of hills and housetops
transfixing our earthly gaze
halting us with intimations
of glory we cannot comprehend.

In such moments when we cannot see our way
we are arrested, not by darkness
but blinded by the very substance
of which matter is made -
pointing beyond itself

wherever unknowing may be
darkness and light are both alike to thee.
JKK, O Sapientia 2011


A Spring moon starts to blossom in cloudy skies.
With each expectant night draws near again
the day-light of redemption's song
while crowds unheeding find distraction
and take comfort in fleeting leisure.

In the chaos of so much forgetting,
of lessons unlearned or refused,
our commonality crumbles into fragments
experience, a jumble of sensations.
Anxiety reigns, confusion and despair
stain the fabric of so many lives.
Yet life giving protest persists, resists.

People of the Covenants – old and new -
prepare to remember who they are
and what they were made to become.
Such a hard learning to keep in mind -
looking beyond to understand
the painful meaning that heals and frees,
makes all things new and crowns with wholeness
those who dare the darkness trusting
and refuse to let it swallow them.

JKK 14.03.12

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Faith in marriage

Here are a couple of reflections re-discovered, written from a winter in mid-life, when my best beloved and I were each discovering and growing into a different sense of identity and vocation through our lives outside the sanctuary of the home. The still hold good, I'm grateful to say, a quarter of a century later.

Romantic intimacy and dependence in tension with the need for freedom are intermingled with the challenges of keeping faith with God and each other.

Autumn that year meant disentanglement
from all that had succoured my youth
turning the face away from where
dreams and visions had been planted in my heart,
where poetry first stirred in my soul
and the universe had opened its secrets
to my bewildered gaze.

It was time to journey, but not by hearsay
time to navigate with eyes of my own
heart pounding with inexperience.

As the loosening of ties began
and the prospect of the voyage at hand
unfolded with vigour day by day,
I did not seek a singular companion
delighting in laughter, music and company
always ready to share in new discoveries
light and landmarks.

But you were there
and unsuspected intimacy grew between us.
Who would have thought that we should linger
when the last coffee cup was drained-
our worlds so far apart?

I was blind to your faults and stumbled over them,
as you did over mine.
But the light from your eyes, as clear as your name
kindled a longing that melted my heart's resistance,
and drew me through the hurt, to journey at your side.

Where then was the decision made
that forged us into one flesh,
and made us unlikely companions?
Sometimes together,sometimes far ahead or behind,
we have come this road-
somehow continuing to find each other
despite the disappointments and betrayals,
returning amazed to the mystery that binds us.

Many seasons have passed,and we are no longer alone.
In moments of confusion I seem to lose you in the crowd
of competing affections which fill our world,
and the map which have made together
becomes a jumble of unintelligible signs,
under darkening skies.

I have learned how to stand alone in the twilight
my heart still poorly illumined by grace,
trusting in darkness,as best I can,
not least your light is shining more clear
than in the first days of our meeting.

I cannot cling to you, lest we both stumble and fall,
only tread unknowing, grateful,
hoping to keep finding you, offering my love's poor recompense
for all I have received and often treasured carelessly.

J.K.K. - 3.1.87


In the long night of our companionship
I saw you together,
like a still centre in the bustle of the celebrations.
Magnetised by the light in each others eyes.

I knew then that I must let you go
if I were not to lose you.
That the path of unknowing must be trod trustfully
to find you again.

The way I remembered you once were
and the way habit knew you to be
were poles of disappointment apart.

And yet I recognised the light which drew me to you first,
even though it no longer encompassed me.

Had we dare conceive 
the heart's agony and dread that lay before
perhaps we'd have preferred to cease longing
and remain uneasy in comfortable aridity.

But no, there was no escape-
only guiding hands, invisibly present in each storm
pointing us where we might not go lest courage fail us,
taking us wounded yet more whole
where the path goes toward the source of the light.

J.K.K. - 4.1.87

Winter- painfully cold, 
bare ground windswept
broken dead branches
morass of trodden leaves-
frozen castaways.

Darkness lasts an age.
Each day sprints its pale way
and the moon rules.

We see each other not by daylight 
in this severest season 
of our companionship.
So many memories, hopes, feelings
now broken underfoot.

But we shall see clearer in the day 
of the returning sun. 

underground,and long before the sap
considers rising
the agonising chemistry of humus
by stealth renews the earth

making possible the greening
that is yet to come.

J.K.K. - 16.12.86

Monday, July 01, 2013

Birth of a son

Now here's a poem rediscovered, which I haven't looked at since he was a babe in arms, thirty five years ago. Happy birthday, my dear boy.


Oh my son!
You have turned me
into a boundary
between my father
and the world to come.

What will you inherit from me?
For the first time,
my mortality has consequences 
close to the heart.

I am no more last of a line,
a name striving for recognition
in the shadow of my forebears.
Therefore I ask-
with greater seriousness
than ever before, 
as if it were a new question-
Who am I?

Yet I know, if I am honest,
that the answer I get
is not only likely to be
quite beyond me,
but also little more
than dawning light
upon your new day.

J.K.K  - 1.7.78