Friday, March 30, 2007

RS at Easter II

The second in the series of RS Thomas poems over Easter is ‘Aftermath’. Thomas often alights on the image of ‘the machine’ as a malevolent description for a fallen world denuded of compassion. Here, at Easter, an innocent – the child – delivers the goodnews that even the machine (a car wreck?) is redeemed.


Easter. The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us how a stone has been rolled
from the mind and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.

There are travellers on the roads
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack of
petrol, is covered with flowers.

R. S. Thomas, 1997.

Taken from “6 poems (1997)”, a signed limited edition produced for the Stratford upon Avon poetry festival. (With thanks to Ian James)

RS at Easter

For the next four weeks of the Easter break I’m using for the chaplaincy newsletter some poems by RS Thomas, an old curmudgeon of a Welsh priest, sadly dead, whose austere spirituality occasionally glints with real insight.

This week a poem about the Incarnation – God’s ‘coming’ to us in ‘a scorched land of fierce colour’.

Look out for the typical blending of evolution and religious myth (the serpent / river / slime complex) and the nod towards mysticism (Julian of Norwich’s vision of creation as a nutshell in a hand), alongside stark images of human suffering, culminating with just the hint of ultimate hope…

The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows; a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

Taken from RS Thomas, Collected Poems, 1945-1990

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Page Turner

Just been to see The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de Pages). Precise, cold, revenge served as nouvelle cuisine. A perfect study of 'an eye for an eye'. Guardian review here.

Leafing through my old Bible I came across a quote I had written across the first page as a kind of warning. It still resonates with me. I can't recall who said it - I think it was at Greenbelt in the early 1990s - so perhaps the late Henri Nouwen, but I have an American voice in my head, too, so maybe (the also sadly deceased) Mike Yaconelli:

Religion is not to be believed, it is to be danced.

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