The hands that touched the cross.

The carpenter was busy on the day that the procession, led by a man on a donkey, entered Jerusalem as the crowds cheered and waved palm branches. He was too busy earning his living which included making weapons of death. He had made a small fortune from the means of punishment and torture, and his work instilled fear to the sinner. The carpenter had barely heard of this man who now rode into the city, although his name was well known by the poor, the sick and the dispossessed.

But the public are fickle and the man on the donkey, would be dead by the end of the week, hanging on a cross, and still the carpenter would be oblivious of his name.

After the man had been tried and found guilty, by public opinion, he walked through the streets of Jerusalem again, this time stumbling under the burden of the cross he had to carry. Hemmed in on either side of the narrow road, he was jeered and spat at by the crowds. It was at the point when he could walk no further, that a bystander came forward. He could not bare to see this man, this good man, stumble and fall, bleeding and exhausted in the road. He took up the cross and walked behind the broken man, to the place of execution.

His clothes, his cloak and his dignity were taken from him, and he lay on the ground, on the wooded cross and gave himself up to die. As the hammer drove the nails through his flesh, and the wooden cross hauled upright, the executioners steadied it with their blood smeared hands.

At the foot of the cross stood the dying man’s mother who only a week before had spoken with pride of her son’s work, his passion for those left behind in the society in which she lived. She was proud, but concerned, as any mother can be, when their child chooses a way to live that is different. Now she clung to the cross, looking up at her son as he breathes his last breath.

Lord God, I lift up to you those who suffer at the hands of others…..

and for those who are willing to take up the struggle for justice and peace…





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Van Gogh in Leicester

Immersed in colour
Swimming in light
She sat,
Surrounded by lilies 
and towering sunflowers....

She sat on the nearest chair in the pew emptied nave that was filled with light. She sat transfixed as the wall, floor and air danced with colour. First the blues and purples of lilies which faded to browns and the yellow, bright yellow of the sunflower. Her eyes followed the movement of swirling mustards, vivid and tinged yellows as they covered the walls with the flowers love by the artist. Her feet on the stone floor were dappled by the blues and greens of the River Seine as it flowed past the village where lamps reflected on the water, brilliant strips of light, while the stars in the sky were pin pricks of white.

As she sat mesmerized, the mood changed and the colour darkened. Rain fell in drops of white light onto the church floor and rippling outwards to touch her feet. On the walls, Van Gogh’s face, his many self portraits were washed away, remade, and washed away again, as the water rose and swirled as though stirred vigorously by an unseen hand.

He was drowning in colour
Overwhelmed by darkness.

About the exhibition

Winter Blues

Winter has a purple hue,
an end of life bruise, 
as the lazy blue of summer darkens.
Long nights and short days
suffocate.

Skeletal trees reach up bony fingers
touching the damp, cold air.
Decaying leaves smother the bare soil, 
a wet blanket on the sleeping ground.
Worm casts litter the lawn that's
crying out for a cut and blow-dry wind.
Once loved, the abandoned pink slide
sits faded and brittle, longing to be touched,
to be climbed on and up,
to be sat on and enjoyed.

And then
reaching up out of the earth,
slender green spears of snowdrops
appear.
Bright gems of yellow jasmine
shine defiantly.
Sweet scented mahonia, the lilac of winter
catch the breeze.

Musings 2021

A mixture of emotions filled 2021 as the new life of a grandchild brought joy , while the worries of being a member of the Sandwich Generation brought its own challenges; an election to a new role in the community and plenty of missed opportunities to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Like any New Year, I look back with both pleasure and regret. This year is no different. But God is constant in his love, his promptings, his compassion and his promise of new life and forgiveness.

Nationally and internationally it has been a year of disputes, of fear, of injustice and selfishness. The situation in Afghanistan, The Yemen; the fragmentation of Europe; the growing divide between rich and poor; the climate emergency, the pandemic. It seems like humans never learn to be good neighbours and to love unconditionally.

But in Jesus, we have the example to follow, for he challenged the social norms of the day, called out the double standards and gave his life that we might know life in all its goodness.

In Jesus we have a new covenant with God, whereby we commit to him and in a way become one in mind and spirit. As in a marriage where two become one in sickness, in health, in our covenant with God, death will not part us. The prophet Jeremiah says in chapter 31,

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.

The Covenant Prayer written by John Wesley in 1755 is a challenge to read and a challenge to keep, but by God’s grace, it brings peace of mind, joy in living, love of neighbour and the hope that his kingdom is being built on Earth.

I am no longer my own but yours. *
Put me to what you will, *
rank me with whom you will; *
put me to doing, *
put me to suffering; *
let me be employed for you, *
or laid aside for you, *
exalted for you, *
or brought low for you; *
let me be full, *
let me be empty, *
let me have all things, *
let me have nothing: *
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal. *

And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine * and I am yours. * So be it. *
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. ***

A Lion in my backyard

For thirty five years I have tried to tame the lion in my back yard, but I have decided to relax and enjoy its wildness.

Your wildness is something else - 
it is prickly like brambles 
reaching out with thorn like claws.
It is tangled like bindweed, wrapping and smothering.
And when the ground is parched dry,
and gaping open to drink the rain that doesn't come,
you limply wait and wilt.
In the Springtime, when the days lengthen 
and the air warms,
you shake your mane and for a while
you are perfection.
For all the time I've taken to make you mine,
and for all the changes I have wrought,
I wouldn't trade you for a feline friend
with preened fur and clean habits.
I'd rather have a lion in my backyard.

NN8 Run-a-round

I’m not called Poetonarun for nothing! The inspiration for this poem came on my 12 mile run around Wellingborough. The artwork, as much as it is, tries to incorporate the physical features of the town with the running shoes that I wore to pound the footpaths and cycle tracks.

 I’m off for a run round the town of my birth
 this mid-land patch, these square miles of Earth.
 Starting my run in the old Market square
 once noisy with stall holders peddling their ware,
 now hushed like a baby, its almost asleep
 except for shops selling everything cheap.
 I enter the park, a hidden gem
 where emerald green lawns and poplars hem.
 Swanspool Brook, snaking muddy brown,
 a wildlife haven in the middle of town.
  
 Running south of the town to the Nene River
 where dive bombing terns swoop hither and thither.
 Slender necked swans jostle Canada geese
 and the whirr of Whitworth’s disturbs the peace. 
  
 From there I pound up Turnell’s Mill Lane
 Where my energy levels flag and wane.
 Reaching the top I establish the beat,
 And tap out the rhythm with my feet.
  
 Slogging northwards to sprawling estates
 with labyrinthine roads to navigate.
 The white bread blandness of these courts and drives
 brightened by the buzz of community hives
 where the old are fed and the young play sport,
 and club members meet and tai chi is taught,
 and punching the air, the screams and shouts
 of kids set free when school is out.
  
 It’s all downhill from Redhill Grange, 
 So the running is easy for a change.
 I reach the station, the Victorian quarter
 With roads of terraced bricks and mortar.
 Factories that once hummed the metallic din
 of boots and shoes crafted from cow skin, 
 converted now into bijoux flats,
 just a stones throw from the railway tracks.
  
 Twelve miles around and back to the heart
 of this ancient site with a Saxon start.
 Successions of families have made it their home
 adding to the mix of the body’s genome. 
 Its people breathe life into the streets
 creating community with each heartbeat.
 Rehomed Londoners from the East End,
 Caribbean islanders joining the blend,
 Gujarati speakers from India’s North West,
 East and West Africans all came as guests,
 Polish, Europeans and British migrants,
 painting this town, diverse and vibrant.
  
 I’ve pounded the pavements of this market town
 And reaching the church and slow right down
 'til I’m under the clock in the ironstone tower
 with its eight huge bells chiming the hour.
 I’ve run right round the town of my birth...
 I just love this place, these square miles of Earth.
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
   

Hope

NN8 Writers Group have been tasked with writing on the theme of “Hope”. I find myself again writing with two voices, but it is the hopeful one that speaks the loudest.

Hope isn’t the taste of a pear, just a day older than perfect, tinged with the blue-green taste of the bruise, spoiling it from the inside, out.

Neither is it the smell of flowers left at the graveside to wilt and frost, turning brown and limp.

Hope isn’t the daily Covid count, awful yet compulsive listening. Neither is it the reassuring words as the monitors buzz and the cries as they fall silent.

Hope isn’t scratchy and harsh, its billowy and enveloping, fleeting and insubstantial.

It’s the smell of the wind and the rain on a mountain top and the sound of a stream gushing over stones on the valley floor.

Hope comes as the taste of a sweet ripe peach, bursting with juice and quenching thirst.

It’s the sight of fragile snowdrops emerging strong, from the frosted ground.

Hope shouts from the roof tops,

“All will be well.”

Hope whispers in the ear,

“And all manner of things will be well.”

2020

A macaroni poem is written with two voices. Last year, like all years, leaves us with a mixture of emotions which whisper inside as we look back and then forward to a new year.

Here is my personal reflection.

A year to remember
A year to forget.

A darling girl born in March
Into a family, loving and safe.
Emerging into lockdown more like.

Streets were deserted and the air clean;
Among the birdsong, the cuckoo called.
Covid, Brexit and climate change.

We met up online, zooming to work;
Phonecalls, Facetime and Whatsapp. 
No touching or hugs to ease the soul.

Running the Nene Way, backpacking the Dales;
Dog walks and bike rides. A time to grow.
Plans were scuppered and money lost. 

Sun, sea and coloured sand on the IOW;
A trip down memory lane for us both.
Job losses, furlough and foodbank queues.

Virtual choirs, virtual races, virtual church;
We were living in a digital age.
Thousands died with no family nearby.

Another long walk, another challenge
Taking me through the dark winter days.
Zombie like eyes above obligatory masks.

A vaccine and the hope of Christmas
To celebrate Immanuel, God is with us.
Where is he in this pandemic?

What a year!
What a year.

The Day After Christmas

While out with the dogs I saw an inflatable Father Christmas, lying slack on a driveway.

It lay there, on the flooded patio,
Deflated and spent, like a giant's condom;
The spectre of Christmas in a puddle.
Hung from the tree, darkened lights,
That in the night shone bright,
Now smirked and revealed the sham
Of stars fallen to Earth. 
Green bins bursting open with bottles and paper
stand skew-whiff reeking of "I know not what."
Traffic absent, the roads lay empty
And become the paths, as parked cars
Mount the pavement with wind mirrors folded.

The feverishness of Advent reached its peak
With a day of eating, drinking and being merry.
Now, in the hiatus before New Year,
Tiredness, grief and "What now?" descend,
And with festive pyjamas, we land deflated and spent
In front of the telly.

Names

As a teacher for 38 years, there are names which make me smile and then there are those that make me sigh with frustration. All names have been anonymized. Feel free to add your own!

She slumped in the chair
ran hands through her hair
rubbed tired eyes
and breathed out a few sighs.

Then came the names
of the kids whose games
drove her mad 
and made her glad
the school day was over.

O__________ with his irritating grin
determined each fight to win.
J__________ with a face of thunder
throwing chairs and tables asunder.
C________ who couldn't sit still
until she swallowed her magic pill.
E____ and R_______, two,
M________, D________, to name a few.

Those names for ever
tainted and so never
chosen for any child 
in her family.