The Walker

john the baptist

“Where are you going?”
Said the boy to the walker.

“I go to the horizon
to find the place where the sun emerges,
Rising when it’s darkest
So with the first rays I can harvest
the hope of things to come.
It sinks into the dew
and evaporates when the light is brightest”.

“But you have neither bag not basket,
How do you keep what you harness?”

“Peace demands I take no bag,
Courage that I take only the shirt on my back,
I shake the dust off where there are mountains
And drink where there are streams.
As for the quarry I seek, these feet,
soaked in the mornings joy,
feed the heart I follow
to the visions that keep my soul warm.

Besides,
I placed my bright mourning flower on the widow’s window,
Put my loaf of bread at the door of the new parents,
Gave my bag to the beggar for his first belongings,
And my water jar to the unpaid servant.

So all I have is me.”

He then watched the thoughts
shoot through the young boys mind,
Watched as those fresh eyes
noticed the closed doors
and flickering candle lights
just about piercing through the gaps
of the boarded up windows.
He watched as the perked up ears
noticed soft whimpers
in between the quietening bird song.
He watched as the the blood
drained from the unguarded face,
the beating softening
as the realisation grew
that though all was not gloom,
it had left little room for much else.

Then knelt the walker,
Gently taking off his shoes.

“One day,
When these fit you,
You will chase the horizon too.
Perhaps towards the setting sun
To mine the hums of the cooling breeze
For the gifts of the seasons:
Reasons to keep going
in the face of encroaching darkness.
Between us maybe
we can feed the trees to fruit again.”

With that he handed them over,
Smiled,
And carried on his way.

© Denis Adide 2018

With special thanks to Peter Duckworth.

Hold on to me.

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Hold on to me,
for my claws lack strength,
and my will is to the contrary –
to the separating,
toward the hopeless dying.

Hold on to me,
for a I feel the winds coming
and have no roots to stem the tide.

Clasp my heart beside yours
so that my rebellious hands find no anchor,
and my flesh with thine be twine,
and your blood be mine.

Hold on to me,
as the rotting parts fall away,
those I thirst for that never quench,
those I feed to the hopeless dying:
with rusty nails on rough wood.
Graft me permanently in,
till resistance turns to rest,
and circumstances to peace,
empty branches to fruit
and wandering feet to roots.

Hold on!

Saviour!

Hold on!

© Denis Adide 2019

Joseph: A father’s song.

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The words chimed on the wind like a soft breathed whisper,
then lingered lazy – full of as much meaning as a seaside sunset –
and yet,
what thoughts it triggered weren’t new but old,
untold and not faced since we first visited the city:

“Rising and falling of many…”

Sustained they were by a heartache fore-felt,
despite valiant efforts to forget,
and the unfulfilled thirst to whisk you away
forsaking the path set.

I did it before once,
when the drums were rolled
and chariots scolded the roads to us;
when spears were wielded
and swords throttled new sons.
I knew then we had to flee
but from this… from this… I can’t keep.

I saw it, I saw it as I was sweeping,
sweeping sawdust –
which mixed with my weeping made for a somber evening.
My work was finished,
The table was made:
smooth and with carvings overlaid.
What remained were the three nails
nestled together at the centre
receiving and reflecting the bright midday light.

“Rising and falling…”

I beheld the sight
and the old fright gripped me to the core
you were mine but always more
and the road to be walked was yours –
I knew then that I couldn’t follow.

For a while my days were made hollow.
Drawn out evenings,
shallow mornings,
and skies coloured by mourning eyes:
The seconds for my pleading still wouldn’t relent,
you were, in my weeping: the son I couldn’t protect;
you were, for my keeping: the Son I couldn’t reject;
the one my heart could not forget
nor eyes evade when the time came.
And come the time surely would,
so said the whispers,
the nails,
and the wood that perfectly still –
though the days moved –
before me perfectly stood.

“Rising and falling”

The words chimed on the wind like a soft breathed whisper,
then lingered lazy – full of as much meaning as a seaside sunset:
three nails, and my little lamb on the table laid.
Softly said with an exhale
so that I would know that my failing
was simultaneously also my hope
and though I grope at strength to save you
what I need do is repent.

Son I love you,
so when comes the prophets day,
and your flesh succumbs to the slightest decay,
I like your Father wont turn away
it won’t be dismay but heartache…

and gratitude…
and pride…
and gratitude…
and sorrow
and gratitude…
and pain.

© Denis Adide 2018

Scriptures to ponder…

Isaiah 53, Luke 2:21-35, Matthew 1:8-25, 2:13-18, 27:55-56.

A Strange Story : Easter Day Evensong sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral.

West Doors

“What are we to do with this strange story? This strange story that seems to us to come from another world. A world different from our own. This strange story about a child born of a virgin, conceived of God; a child whose birth is heralded by singing angels, shepherds and kings; a child whose birth is foretold centuries before it happens; this child who in his youth teaches his teaches but is always obedient to his mother and father. What are we to do?

What are we to do with tales of water being turned into wine; of people born blind being given their sight again; of the paralysed being animated; of the lame walking; of the sick being healed; of leper’s being made clean by a touch; of the dead being raised to life again? It seems to us from another world. A world very different from our own. What are we to do?

What are we to do with the claims of this child, now a man, that he was there with God in the beginning; that he is God among us, Immanuel; that it is he that placed the stars in the places they occupy; that it is he who decided the numbers of hairs we would have and at which point some of us might lose a few? In a world with pictures of black holes, science and modern medicine, what are we to do?

My suggestion this day is that we follow the evidence. We start by asking why a fire in an old cathedral is a tragedy? If all we see is all there is then why lament the smoke? Perhaps there is more, perhaps that world from which our story comes isn’t that distant after all.

If the story-teller is the same one in the beginning as is at the end, if He is Alpha and Omega then maybe in the corridors of history he might direct Isaiah – a prophet in exile – to speak of the day when the true rules of this universe would be revealed; to ask whether when that day comes, people would understand the gravity of what they witnessed.

If He is who he says he is, maybe he might allow humanity to throw their best at him. Beat him, force him to carry a log up a hill, nail him to that log and mock him as he dies. Maybe he might allow those who think death is the best weapon to bury him in a tomb and sleep soundly in their success: enjoying the grief written on the faces of his friends, soundly in the knowledge that the rules hadn’t changed. Soundly in the knowledge that might was right; you survived if you were fit or lucky enough; the sword would always win and bombs in churches would silence heaven.

Medicine tells us that blood and water from a pierced side only flow from someone who is dead.

History tells us that A Roman guard would never fall asleep on duty because it would cost him his life.

Science tells us that more than one person can hallucinate at the same time. But for two to have the exact same hallucination is extremely rare.

Where does that leave us when it comes to the three women at the tomb; or the 11 or more in a room they had locked from the inside; or the 500 who saw him alive; or the billions who have since encountered him in person by his spirit.

Today we strongly celebrate the reality that the rules did change. The tomb sealed to keep a dead man thrown wide open by a God who for compassion had come to the dust of the earth to make of them his children. The swords placed in soldiers hands to ensure he stayed dead were scattered by the display of what might really looked like. The earth shook. The way was paved for the women, considered the least, to come and find hope instead of continuing grief.

Death has lost its sting, evil its greatest weapon. Humanity has gained victory.

Ye though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. For our shepherd – the good shepherd – has gone before us. Laying a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Giving us shalom, peace with God – the only sure foundation for joy.

Alas its is indeed a strange story, but not from another world. Granted perhaps it is a collision of two worlds, God’s plan for heaven and earth. A plan so that the eternal song of heaven, the song of the saints persecuted to death is “Sanctus! holy! Holy! Holy!”. For they see the tapestry completed. And the song of the church on earth, “Allelujah, Our Saviour is risen!”; of victory over death is sung with a hope unquenched and a joy everlasting.

Perhaps as we depart this day. Let us in the power of the death conquering spirit, confident in this strange but true story, participate in this seditious and rebellious song of a church united in heaven and militant here on earth.

Sanctus! Sanctus! Allelujah! Allelujah

May God bless his word to us today.”

One more day

From the garden.

Gethsemane

One more day…

One more day…

The bread is still warm.
Calmly I dismissed him who heralds my harm.
They who this table charm
forget the scent of the embalmers perfume.
The echo of his fading footsteps resume
whenever there is a reprieve from the needless arguments:
and they praise unaware of the impending lament.

Oh Father,
Will you ascend the hill with me
And wait as I pray
Or will you sleep in my darkest hour
Saving souring flesh?

When the fangs pierce my heel,
And the serpent seeks to steal each exhale,
And hands impaled inhale impending darkness;
When the intended groom hangs naked
And the betrothed assails;
Will your gaze stay or fray?

Half buried I am by a friend’s betray.
Halfway ingested the cursed cup remains
Corrosive contents to stain my flesh.
I struggle to contain my distress
Too faithful to repent, let it all be spent
In a night…
And one more day. 

One more day…
For this the dungeon holds,
And for now the light still flickers.
Once these fingers did stars fling
And for them the rocks will sing
But tomorrow’s day and the life before
For a sting and a world restored.

How quickly from light to darkness,
Palm leaves to stones,
Reckless praise to insults,
Crowns to thorns,
Questions to stark impulses,
And chants?

The chants…
Foretold and known yet haunting;
Embodied now all’s daunting;
Anointed by their relentless refrain
For a long night in chains and then
one more day.

One more day…
The stones should have cried out
But they instead spewed the nails that await.
I and the tall tree are fated to die.
Naked for fallen leaves
and cursed for sour fruit.
The axe in myrrh was at out roots.
A lash for each wilderness hour
A rush to reach for what wilderness flowered.
To scour tenderness thrice tempted.

from this path I’m not exempt.

The Wine awaits

The bread must break

and when the nights partaken

it’ll be one more day.

© Denis Adide 2018

Please Wake Up!

(Remembrance day 2018)

You rested your head and fell asleep.
The weeping oars – bathing in the choppy seas
Where salt and blood mingled in
With the fears of those drowning:
Chained and thrown in
To save weight against the waves –
They didn’t wake you.

When the shackles came
And in steel thick bound wrists and throats,
Their cutting coats hemming away
the paradise they were stealing.
Selling nothing but stinging songs
And enforced kneeling.
Peeling the skins of their rebels – freedmen
(I’ve seen the groves swung axes make on stone)
Yet you stayed on your throne
Soundly sleeping.

They made my grandfather a chief,
My other grandfather a signal operator,
Gave them both homes and clothes
Then forcefully stole their brother and sons
To fight wars across the globe.
Fear was dropped in like ancient bombs
On fresh widows and fatherless ones.
And those that returned,
Like dead men,
Wished the ocean had taken them.
The sparrow and the lily were clothed
But their sons were left naked –
Chained in cold concrete cattle pods by the coast.
The old soldiers were drunk on the sap from banana leaves:
Grief in free reign,
like blustering winds on our falling sails
And yet you sleep!

The shackles were swapped for long silk tethers:
Bondage was given a different name –
Baptised in holy water and uploaded onto the cloud,
Fortified in unseen signals
From the WiFi hubs they installed.
Thinking they were free,
Our daughter tried to sing;
Our sons tried to fly.
Unable to exhale they suffocated
In the ugliness they were made to believe was their own:
A tattooed imperfection over what was good.
Almost in the sky the taught strings revealed the deeper truths…
That the oars were still weeping,
Bodies were still being thrown overboard and sinking.
The curtains – well knit over time –
Were keeping the illusion afloat,
Concealing the looting,
Uprooting,
Shooting,
And polluting.
The pilots, prophets, kings, and queens
Were anchored to bones
That for justice resist burying
For they continue dying un-decayed.
AND STILL! You sleep!

So… here I am.
With bloody knees kneeling.
Coagulated and shackled hands,
Desperately shaking your limp shoulders
As my captors with grins
watch, mock and sharpen their blades;
Tears accompanying my righteous whimpers –
A voice made feeble from crying for justice –
Rocking,
And speaking,
And trembling,
And pleading

PLEASE, WAKE UP!

© Denis Adide 2018

Catch up: Part 5 (a)… First March of the Penguins

Though I had Ironed it on the first night of the retreat, I ran the steamer over it once more on the eve of the ceremony. My black suit was spotless and crease free – apart from the intentional one on the trouser legs (my ex-military dad had taught me how to iron and my residual nerves had ensured absolute precision: even samurais are not that sharp). The clerical shirt was immaculate and I could see my face in the spit-shined shoes. If God was going to reject me, it wasn’t going to be for my garments. Maybe for the shoes… maybe.

When I bought the shoes, I thought it funny that they were made by a company called ‘hell leather’. Yes, I knew they were what I would wear to my ordination; Yes, I hoped the people who would be directly behind me would see them; and Yes, on the day of the ordination I knelt with ears sharpened, ready for the ghasp from a holy person about the unholy thing they had noticed about the soon to be deacon. The length of my cassoc, however, scuppered my plans: dresses can be quite annoying.

It’s a weird thing, waking up on days like these. Light, not the clock, woke me up. Gently it trickled in through a small gap in the curtain. It was just enough to give the room a glow: or maybe a child was excited about Christmas. I didn’t yawn or stretch. My eyes went from sleep to wide awake in the space of seconds. My mind brought the rest of me up to speed. Fresh in memory the conversations I had had with my fellow ordinands over a 12-year-old Ardbeg the nights before we went into silence. Fresh in memory the brief interview I had had with the Bishop the day before: brief and encouraging. Fresh in memory the gentle thump of my heart as I tried to fall asleep the night before – dreaming of what was to come while simultaneously being thrust back into the dark room I was to try and rest in. It had felt like a kind of baptism, a kind of tomb. Perhaps part of me was dying. I don’t know. Truly something was going to be slightly different tomorrow, that I knew.

My heart wasn’t game for a wrestle against the tide, against the time, against what felt like destiny. My bones were aligning and that was good, and I knew that. I knew it well. I knew it in the place one visits when they honestly shut their eyes and look in. There was no trembling here. Just the gentle thump of a peaceful excitement. Today was a big day, there were things to do. Within minutes my bed was made and everything I didn’t need was packed and ready to for check out.

A drink of water can refresh the outside of a person. This morning the cascade of droplets pelleting my face and skin felt like little drums chiming in the horizon. With their pitter-patter, they soothed me and prepared me for what was ahead. What they said, the cocoa butter sealed in. Awash with peace I dressed up.

There is a thing about uniforms that make them ridiculous. When you wear one part of you is hidden and part of you comes to the fore. No uniform ever captures the totality of the individual (like the extra bits of the fajita that won’t fit into the overfilled wrap). looking in the mirror I had to laugh.

“Clerical shirts are not good for anything else”, I thought to myself. “Can’t use a normal tie with them”. With a brief smile, recognising the somewhat hilarious confluence of my uniform and branded shoes, I slipped my collar in. After debating whether to wear the jacket with one button or two done I left my room, cassock bag folded over my left arm; ‘normal stuff’ bag slung over my right shoulder; no button done.

We looked like a bunch of penguins sipping tea. Whoever thought of giving a group of clergy white teacups and saucers was a genius. In the sea of black, all you could notice were the moving cups and collars. But one couldn’t laugh could one? No! oh no! One was one of the penguins. One could smile though. Partly because it was the appropriate Christian face for the day (everyone apart from the retreat guides wasn’t in a place to be pastoral so panic face or sad face might have been ignored by the potential church leaders in the building: ceremony first, service later).

At this juncture, I’d like to point out for legal reasons that the description put forth in the preceding parentheses are the author’s own and may not be representative of the wider troop.

After tea begun the march of the penguins onto the coach: some kind person had brought chocolates to share. Then the drive to the cathedral for a final rehearsal and the Bishop’s charge. Then lunch at the Bishop’s digs. Then Family time (which I valued greatly) before returning for the final robing and ceremony.

It’s funny how nothing changed… and yet…

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