Poetry 031: Recompense

How am I to face the eyes of pity
that will surround and follow me
the rest of the days before they all
begin to forget, Knowing that I,
for the love – yours – sowed within,
am reaping eternal – internal – grief?

I can’t unless you give it all back.

I had enough love for four lifetimes
and more, all you to do was ask;
all you had to do was talk, take,
walk, live… give – a little.

Set my heart alight – immolate –
this rebellion must succeed.
Failure ensures my mind recedes,
past the faith I held, as the torch of old
that with coloured rings made a whole
of the hemispheres. Once to love,
and to hold, but lo! and behold the bold
did to frailty fall.
Forsaking the rollings stones, they became
immersed in moss. covered in the green
they gave way to the mud that slowly
inched over inches to make six feet;
and ashes – once oaks – returned to dust:
the crowds, like the vicar, slowly left
pinching more earth and spraying them
over the flowers – like the memories doomed
to rot and die – that adorned the lonely casket.

The groom, escorted by all into the sepulchre,
now slept. His weeping stilled by the thick
air, lightly lit, hovering between the stained panes
that crowned the walls. Prayers unheard,
like insence, floating hazily; kept in by
the sooty roof.

When they bury the dead, everyone leaves
except the dead. They stay, singing to the stars,
unrequited songs of love, of hope, of floating dreams
in tins unsealed, of loss encountered in daring
for victory, of death, of end without end,
of conflicted beginnings, of afflicted unamended –
untamed – …
Their affectations slowly, like their flesh, disappear:
Unheard once covered, unseen once left.

I can’t unless you give it all back.

What hurts is the hand that held the blade
and not the merciful blade itself. For edges,
sharp or blunt, have no master, no loyalty,
nor judgement. They serve hearts, and hands,
and feet, and thoughts grown to become deeds,
and deeds done in attempts to undo others:
be they dreams once seeded, now rejected
as shoots – unplucked but doomed to die.

uprooted into insignificance, like a drop of rain
falling from the clouds onto the surface of the sea,
drifting. One among many drops; no longer a drop.
At once sea, no mercy but what is given me,
no power nor self. Shelved until the improbable:
the currents drift me back up into the realms
of elevating rays. For now though, and maybe
forever, the abyss awaits, and hell.

And I can’t unless you give it all back:
all of it, in it’s separate pieces and moments;
spots that form the person that, within your
supposed love, I grew to become: grew
away from being.

© Denis Adide 2012

 

Poetry 029: Gravestone

His father – sternly convinced of it –
had told him that the truth,
in all it’s possible clarity
would be found at the end
of a shared bottle of wine.

He had often since wondered at
the quality of the participants
of this particular ritual.
With half the bottle now soaking the soil
beside the cold gravestone –
there was no way he could now
find out.

Maybe it – the thought – was slightly ominous
that when he and his wife were to wed
they’d inherit his parent’s rings.
It was a promise he’d conceived
and asked when dreams existed
beside the old tricycle he used to ride.
The same which now was caked in rust,
half in mud and green entombed
in the old house his family once had.

Frequent these trips of his had become
the more her words swayed,
the dead had ears that didn’t judge
the words his heart would say.

© Denis Adide 2012

(Again another draft I couldn’t resist sharing)

Poetry 028: The Cat

For years, as their lives ebbed peacefully,
the cat – black and white like tom,
had found a place for himself
beside the warm coal fire
that burst forth welcomingly
during the cold winters,
and hummed a cool breeze
down the open chimney in the summer.
He had grown accustomed to the food,
the space he was afforded,
the comfortable cushion she had placed
in the used moses basket.

The children he had met in their adolescence
had all grown and left,
Noise giving way to expansive silence
coupled with a decline in feeds,
an increase in the smell
of the unchanged cushion covers;
and the intermittent arguments.
The fire had stopped burning as oft,
no coal or tinder, or wood was brought.
Her husband, for mischief,
poured wine into his water bowl
and ruined his quiet nights
with noise and bright flashing lights
of the old wooden television.
the only comfort left in the season
was the reasonless times she would hold him,
running her fingers through his fur
until her face was sore from the tears
and her trembling palms panicked him.

She finally brought a carry cage for him
and placed it by the chopped up logs
that lay on his spot beside the fireplace.
Her bags – resting by the doors –
protected his cage from the invading dogs.

© Denis Adide 2012

(A draft, but had to share it.)

 

‘Stone Altars’ (Part 4)

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

Under the spell of the Bishop’s hat, which towered above the crowds now gathered on the steps of the Cathedral, we listened as the canon read from the book of Moses the story of how God delivered and led the Israelites through the parted sea and away from the pursuing Egyptian army. He, the Bishop, then began the service and marched us – crowds and candidates – into the huge cathedral doors, stopping by the font where the waters waited. With vigor and verve, he blessed the water and began to baptize the candidates. Each name was spoken with a deep sense of passion and enthusiasm, this man celebrated each face the drops touched, pronouncing the blessings surrounding the choice to pass into death and emerge into life with Jesus – Him for whom we were gathered.

(It is an interesting thing, that the church chose to have baptisms and confirmations on easter Saturday. I will cover this in a further reflection. For now I must return to the issue at hand).

I was impressed by the manner in which regardless of the number of people being baptised, the Bishop’s enthusiasm and sense of privilege never waned. Once the baptisms were done, He invited the rest of us – the confirmation candidates – to renew our vows before God by symbolically drawing the cross upon our foreheads with the waters from the font. When this was done, he led the procession down to the front, underneath the great dome. Candles in hand we all sat – the crowds joining in the scramble for good seats.

Being on the first row, my confirmation came and went quite quickly – I’m certain there is still a lot of processing to take place of what went on within me during those brief moments, what you are getting here is what I have been able to digest so far and feel is relevant to the issue of stone altars. As I mentioned in the preceding post, I was privileged to have been sat next to a young lady who was being baptised and confirmed on the same day. It was an honour to explain some of the liturgy and symbolism to her and see the effect of her grasping the depth of the steps she was making, even sharing her first journey to taking holy communion. This, and the long list of names that – like me – were called up to be confirmed, gave the occasion a sense of grander that surpassed all sense of ego that had developed within: leading up to the service, I had grown to believe in the speciality of my place but seeing and feeling my name vanish into a list that seemed endless was humbling. It was at this that the statement rang again.

I asked for your hearts, but you made these stone altars for yourselves

Yes, there was an altar made of stone (a hardening) that I had built for myself. Not to give God glory or even to lead me to a place where I could, but rather to keep myself in an elevated place. It was an altar well concealed in the sentiments of radicality and difference: in the desire to be set apart, to be distinctive. All these things in and of themselves aren’t bad, it is the secret edifice that they had allowed me to build without my noticing that made me shudder. As the names were called out, I realised that this vow that I was making wasn’t being done just by me. In fact, I was joining a whole host of people: becoming one of many. I was disturbed by the fact that I wanted the service to end quickly so I could go out and celebrate. The other names had began to make uncomfortable listening. The arrow to heart was the fact that for all his pomp and age, the Bishop remained enthusiastic about each name he read and blessed each one aloud and with such favour.

Skirted by a sense of self-righteousness masked in good intentions, I had erected my name, my reputation and adorned it with many things – words of affirmation, prophecy, and works, I had built myself into a tower overlooking the city so much so that in many ways I despised the Cathedral, trying to depose it.

A friend had asked me how our worship made God feel. This in an attempt to understand how to worship God in ‘Spirit and in truth’. My response was to say that our drive to worship shouldn’t be one that seeks to affect God, for he is suited in Glory already. Worship, and all it’s acts, were there as responses to God in all his splendour. This is right I think as it focuses our lenses onto the heart, which turned out to be the most important part of the sentence I heard.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

The heart is the most important word in that line because it canvases everything else. If the heart is correct, then the pieces of bricked up stones cease to be altars for selfishness but tools for mission and service. God doesn’t need beautiful buildings in order to be glorious or reveal his Glory. Neither does he need the pomp and ceremony of religiosity to touch the heart. It is in the heart – like that which I saw displayed in the Bishop’s sense of privilege in service – that God dwells and affects hearts. The real cathedral was in the heart of the man serving within it.

When we attach a deeper Spiritual essence onto the bricks and mortar, and beautiful artwork, we elevate what is architecture into something that it isn’t. On the other hand, though it isn’t the house of God, it is the house of God’s people and where they are (two or three) there He is also. I had walked into Chichester Cathedral thinking that God would speak to “me” there because “I” had gone into “His house”. I forgot that he could speak to me at any point and at any time thus the rebuke I think (and the rebuke was word from God spoken to me – I believe – inside the Cathedral: chew on that).

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

I come from a continent that isn’t adorned with many cathedrals and churches. The church there is very much carried within its people. The many Church buildings that Britain, and Europe, are blessed to have are, and will always be reflections of the people within the church. They carry the sense within us of God’s grandure and hospitality but can be stumbling blocks to the development of faith within the heart. Like the dinner table for sunday roast, or Christmas meals, or Easter turkey, these spaces provide avenues for us to celebrate with each other the deep sense of hope that our faith gives us. It gives us space to share that hope with guests to our family. These things however, like the faith, do not require the space the buildings provide in order to be done – as I have experienced in Africa and is documented in many places. God is preached on streets, in homes, in fields and felt in hearts.

We cannot escape the privilege however of having these beautiful buildings and must, like Peter and the boat, cease to see them as means of surviving on the water but rather tools from which to preach the possibility of walking with Christ. We can only do this once we, internally turn our eyes heavenward, and not to fresco’s and domes. Remembering out own brokenness and folly in repentance (destroying the architecture in our hearts that keeps us from humility). Only then can we respond to the call the heart in true worship.

I was reduced to tears after sharing the peace with my family and friends who had journeyed to take part in the service with me. The joy they had in their eyes, having watched what had taken place, humbled me. It reminded me of the call to serve and invigorated me with a passion for them. It was their eyes, handshakes, hearts, and hugs that broke the bricks that supported my internal dome.

As you read this, please do place me in your prayers as the journey towards a truer understanding of my place in God’s kingdom continues. I know that within me is the urge to shy from addressing my own brokenness so desperately I ask for your intercession as I try and tear down the boulders within.

Finally, think on the statement and feel free to converse with me on your reflections.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yoursleves

‘Stone altars’ (Part 3)

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

A strange nervousness and anxiety began to take hold of me the closer we got to London. My wife and I had spent the morning in Gloucestershire celebrating our God-daughter’s first birthday party. It had been an early drive and my nervousness had ensured that I volunteered to do both legs of the journey – to and from Stonehouse: I needed some sense of control in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the, and I thought at the time, unnecessary excitement. Each mile that I conquered seemed to amplify the rumble at the pit of my stomach, increasing the thump of my heart while drawing it closer to my throat. I couldn’t admit the extent of my turmoil to my wife, but rather soldiered on: if I crumbled now, we might not make it to the Cathedral.

Slowly the roads got busier and so did the frequency of buildings and traffic signals. It seemed as though the 100 miles or so between the beautiful young lady and the huge edifice – concealed by its modern counterparts – had sailed by. Right onto the A501 – Southampton Row, then Kingsway. Left onto Fleet Street by Bush House. I finally convinced my wife to turn off the satnav, I knew very well where we were and the most important thing then was providence: we needed to park.

There had been a bit of a rush added to the journey as, unbeknown to me until the night before – as always – I had to be at the Cathedral an hour and a half before the service to rehearse. This meant leaving the party early and putting my foot down for most of the trip. Had we been aiming for 7pm, the day would’ve been less stressful and – maybe – the journey less anxious.

She – the Edifice – pushed the rest of the quite tall building aside and lay the skirting of her dress around the space she had made. Standing tall she proclaimed her majesty and magnificence, highlighting the exquisite stonework in the pillars that held her court. We drove round, I in awe again, and were lucky to find parking on Paternoster Row. In haste we made our way toward the nearest tea place in order to sit and top up on caffein and food before going in – we had clawed back half hour which we intended to use ‘wisely’. Somewhere between parking and walking, I lost my appetite. The first tea place was full, and so was Starbucks. The cafe inside the Cathedral Crypt was also closing. M&S was our only hope.

As we emerged from the crypt, at whose doors a well built gentleman was ushering patron’s out, we spotted Azariah – my presenting Clergy and friend. He had his robes in the bag he carried. Unnervingly for me, he seemed aware of the depth of my anxiety – at least it seemed to me he did; with a hand on my shoulder he silently said what was needed to cement my walls of self assurance until the next onslaught. I downed the mango, pineapple, and passionfruit smoothie he bought me in one go and followed the calmer two, my wife and the vicar, into the Cathedral.

I had never been inside St Paul’s and almost expected pixie dust to fall. Following Azariah but keeping close to my wife, I gazed at the different works of art and genius that formed the inside of this beautiful monument (I do not use that word lightly: all connotations are apt methinks). He found my seat where my service order was waiting and after a few conversations with other candidates and clergy, I settled down for the rehearsal. (My wife must have been bored stiff).

Two things – that I retrospectively reflect on here – happened. The first was that I was placed beside a young lady who was due to be married. She hadn’t been baptized or confirmed and needed to be in order to marry in the church she was a part of. This was interesting as I wasn’t confirmed in the Church of England when I got married, a statement of the breadth within the Church. She had no idea what was about happen – I realized when I joked about the pool beneath the floor infront of us in which she would be dunked that nerves overcame her.

The second was the care with which the Chaplins and deacons took to prepare in order that the Bishop wouldn’t have any unpleasantries: their honest diligence was inspiring. Would I happily dedicate my life, and time, in the service of another man – He would have to be a great man (as it turned out this Bishop was).

After running through the important aspects of the liturgy with us, we were set free for the half hour or so before the service. The charm of the building had began to be lost on me. My nerves were vanishing quickly and the cocky side of me was slowly increasing the number of ill timed quips and jokes: my mind was beginning to disengage with the vows I was about to affirm.

The crowds began to gather outside the Cathedral where a fire had been lit by the vergers. I had been saying hello to the friends and family that had come along to the service in support and thus missed out on the prime spots. ‘How religious’ I thought when I saw the two lines of clergy in file along the steps from the Cathedral doors down to where the fire burned. Imagining the laughter of an athiest at the sight of the robes, and the Bishop’s hat, I chuckled – missing part of the reading; a nudge from my presenting Vicar and friend began to knock me back into the proceedings…

 

 

‘Stone Altars’ (Part 1)

My beautiful wife to be had a dress fitting on a day that was inconvenient for her bridesmaids (our journey to getting married was littered with moments like these where all we had was each other and the love we shared to call on, and fight for). I accompanied her to Chichester where the dress shop was but owing to the role I had in her life – bridegroom – the forcefield around the shop wouldn’t let me near. I decided to spend the hour or so in Chichester Cathedral speaking to the only man I was certain – at the time – understood what I was going through.

If you’ve never been to Chichester Cathedral, I suggest you take the trip. In fact, I recommend a trip to any such Cathedral. The collision of art, religion, culture, power, wealth, and politics is both fascinating and awe inspiring. This however, wasn’t my reason for going. It was the closest church to the dress shop and I wasn’t in the mood for a coffee. That said, the magnitude of the edifice wasn’t lost on me. I wondered around it toward the front door, overwhelmed by the sense that if God did come to earth, he was certain to fit in a building so big and wouldn’t feel out of place (Glory and all) in a place so adorned and revered.

Quietly and slowly I walked up the small steps, forgetting the feeling of difference that had earlier occupied me as I walked through the town center (I get these bouts of insecurity whenever I feel like a minority – which happens a lot especially in the countryside). God had to be here, and he would give me reprieve from the worries of un-approving parents and friends.

Four pews in I turned, any further and I’d be within speaking distance of the priest – not what I was here for. I sat facing the altar, which seemed almost a mile away, and focused in on the silence; hoping for that ‘still small voice’. After a few minutes within which I failed to concentrate, distracted by the whispers carried down the great hall, and the silent footsteps I could feel around me, my thoughts cleared. It was as though I had been running through thick forest and suddenly had come upon a treeless landscape, just green grass as far as the eye could see. In the bliss of the moment, a sentence emerged.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

Then… silence again. Then the whispers. Then the footprints. Then the priest turned and began to walk towards my pew. Stereotypically, I put my hood on: it was time to leave.

Almost two years later, I haven’t fully understood – and graple with – the significance and meaning of that sentence. As I left the church I felt fairly convinced that it was a clear message to rebuke the sentiment I had that God lived in buildings such as the one I had been in. It was an open rebuke and, excited as I was, I was equally disturbed. The contradiction being that I had to walk into the building to hear/ see/ sense/ think the words I believed were relevant.

The connotations carried in the ‘for yourselves’ made me feel as though I should never set foot in a cathedral again. It convinced me that – and this may be true – the place for a Christian isn’t inside the building but outside it. Continually being a part of the Church (collective of Christians) while living and serving within the community. The building was unnecessary as love dwelt and poured out of the heart. The buildings felt unnecessary, almost tower of Babel-ish; a distraction from the deeper sense of conviction and relationship that meeting with a dynamic, living, kinetic God would bring.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

For the good that that line of thought did me, I had missed one crucial lesson which I only began to gather this week.

God is frustrating. As creatures in his image we yearn for control thus making trust – or faith rather – difficult. The absurdity of prayer, its necessity, the frustration of unwanted responses – silence included – add to this difficulty. All we have is the hope that within the eternal scope, the completely wise allpowerful will be true to his promises of unconditional ans unflinching love.

Calling people to him, we musnt hide from the difficulty while marketing the hope. Keeping aware of our own pain makes us sensitive to the pai mm of others. Only then can we draw near to the cross together in gracious hope.

I celebrate muamba’s recovery but likewise mourn with the many whose pain has been rekindled and highlighted in its wake.

Good reflection.

Thanks

astoryoffailure

It’s been quite a while since I wrote on here. I have surprised myself with my silence. The truth is – the quiet has been a combination of two facts-of-life: 1. Busyness 2. Complete dearth of inspiration.

Work has been busy – for which I am deeply grateful. Life as a freelancer is constantly unpredictable and I am very happy to have an influx of work, which will keep me busy and out of trouble for a few weeks.

Mostly – and this I suspect is the “real” reason – I just haven’t felt inspired. Haven’t known what to write about. Haven’t felt that I had anything to say. Fleeting thoughts have crossed my mind but nothing has taken root.

Until today.

This morning, I went to church. It was a lovely service. On the whole. A guest speaker and lots of happy faces. All was going swimmingly. And then…

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Poetry 027: Gull

It baffled me to see gulls
this far in, away from the sea.
Probably as much as it did him
to see me – a man of colour –
this far from the metropolis.

I wonder whether
He thought it a hunger –
similar to that
of my winged counterparts –
that had led me to sing
Away from ‘home’,
and not the Love
Whose white hands I cling.

© Denis Adide 2012

Poetry 026: Fruit Picking

They were the hot summer days,
The ones we favored for picking.

She smiled whenever the idea came up,
It was possibly the only thing that I saw
Would light up her demeanor.
Excited she would dance, almost glide
Her way to the car and wait beside
The passenger door.
Her strides small and quick,
Making her hips swing and hair float.
She’d never gloat but it seemed
It was gentleness she gleaned from me
As I slowly, as was my pace,
Walked toward the door and
With a smile, opened it for her.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

Radio four would carry us there,
Away from the care of a crumbling exhaust
Or the sticky clutch.
She’d sat in silence as the seconds flew
Alongside the cascading landscape.
For she had said and knew,
That in those moments the roots
She dug and tended would –
After winter had come and gone
And spring had rained
and sun had shone – bear fruit.
She watched the world without a care
Staring through opposite windows.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

The warning light flashed and the gate
To the farm, a local favorite,
Slowly swung open as the heat
poured in through my window.
She fanned her face with paper,
One of the ‘just in case cards’
She usually stashed in her glove-box.
We exchanged smiles,
Her hand resting on my thigh
I quickly pulled my trouser legs
Down over my socks and steered.
The car – a present from her dad –
Obeyed.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking

Her hands, whose touch I often feel
Even her absence, softly caressed
The rose red cherries that hung
From the upper branches of the tree.
With her small feet pointed
She tiptoed and stole for me
The fruits she thought were sweet.
Her lips, watered with desire,
Wrapped around a raspberry
Soft pink blushes washing
Across her happy face as she ate
Free from, work and worry,
And almost free from me.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking

Her eyes spoke of days without end
Fires without ash
Or burning heat: just warmth.
Her smile spoke of receding pain,
Eroded by the warm soft rain
That fell upon our faces and hands
As we stood entwined: and sold.
Her heart, like mine, sang of hope;
Our hymn of a happiness bespoke,
Spread upon the grasses,
Glistening as the evening sun
Sat in and glowed.
I couldn’t have loved her more.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

© Denis Adide 2011

 

Poetry 025: Seasons of Migration

Musing on the Exotic unknown

Looking down her naked body
I’m struck by the contours,
Rising and falling like dunes
On this, my beautiful desert.
Golden from the sunshine,
Smooth from the warm infrequent rain.
Like a precious jewel, her body glistens
In the candlelight.

My once lost love was found
In the distinct, yet fading, border
Between her skin and mine.
Like the etchings of time
Plastered on the cold concrete floor
On which our feet slowly danced,
My banner nature dissipated,
Flowering beneath it, an expansive
Array of colors – unseen but felt
In the subtle caress of navels.
With my fingers I forget the rocks,
The crowded hills, the voices of ancestry,
And with the chains of an inexplicable love
Embrace her.

I dine to die, die to rise, and rise a’new!

© Denis Adide 2010