The Beggar: Marrakech

The first time I walked past him he was in a half squat with his hand partly stretched, his elbow nestled between his groin. His right hand was out, his left hand covering his chest – holding his cloak in. His back was supported by the pinkish wall behind him – they all had a shade of pink and were virtually indistinguishable. 

It was just after lunch and we had, having placed our bags in the hotel, left with eagerness and purpose to begin some preliminary exploration of the souks. The mosque, which he was perched opposite, had emptied and the business of the narrow street had resumed. It seemed as though there was an endless stream of the noisy motorcycles just waiting for you to begin trying to navigate your way before hurtling down the narrow streets. And the maps, those blasted maps, never made any distinction between what was quite obviously an alley to the foreign eye and what was a street: how self-centered. Needless to say, we eventually got lost. 

Sometime before leaving London, I had been sent by a colleague to offer a homeless man some soup. He had frowned as he saw me coming and lifted his palm to me like a gate, demarcating the area I was not to enter. It’s no excuse but (the excuse is) I had up to this point encountered ‘the professional beggar’ plenty of times. This had made me weight the scales in favour of distrust and away from compassion.

We walked past this one. 

“To the least of my brothers” He said.

Mrs Fergusson (A response to a letter)

Mary and John

(She folds his head into her bosom,
His blood drips down onto her dress,
Her eyes like an arm reach out onto mine
And this is what they say,)

“Come, Sit, Wait with me while he dies
Wait with me while I die and yet still live
Wait with me while I live the dying
And still wait with me as I suffer surviving
Come, sit, wait with me.

Place your knees beside his unfolded feet
Stretch out your hand and feel as the heat escapes,
As the fading breath ferries my sweet;
The Son of woman away.

Don’t leave, don’t fall to sleep,
Don’t slumber while I attempt to slay
The rising sorrow with feeble words heaven bound.
Pray on my behalf, for I cannot say the sounds
My tongue is in shock for the wounds perfectly here portrayed;
This body; this one that in my arms now lays
Carries the stains that will wash away
But not the stains that remain
Asking you to stay… with me
Asking you to wait… with me
To wake… and die yet still live,
And live the dying…
And suffer the surviving…
And sit… and wait… and pray… with me.”

(Then with his eyes open as her eyes close, we meet… he speaks…)

“Here is your mother”

(And breathes his first).

© Denis Adide 2014

Samson

Leave

Like Samson,
The chains were locked back on Django while he slept.
Slumber swept away the freedom he’d dreamt.
Time, like a lit candle in the black
Meant Samsons mane grew back…
But he was never again as free as at first.

How deep need it be?
Look down and up your streets,
See what the sweet honey coated slogans breed,
A hunger for money that never feeds,
A thirst that busy families never quench.
And what’s left is the loneliness of the silver years
And the rivers of tears from economic widows
And orphans looking through stacked windows
Watching their men run away…

“Go out in force and vote for me today!
Watch me change the state
And veil the things that make or break your lives
In honey sweet slogans
Plastered on bus sides.
never admit the system’s broken,
Then sleep, Like Samson:
locks cut away,
Eyes chained by the newspapers I pay”.

Let him who has ears hear.

© Denis Adide 2016

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.

joseph-father-of-jesus-2 (1)

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.”