Welcome

These poems are the fruit of almost 30 years of occasional writing. They were written as private reflections, or for friends and family. I hadn't intended them for public consumption, but people have told me now and then that they thought I should share them, so I have. I shall add new poems if and when I write them, though a lot of my words tend to go into sermons these days!
If you find something you like and find helpful, you are welcome to use it and share it, but please make sure my name stays attached to it.
The poems are posted in no particular order, but the labels - click on links below - should help you find poems on various themes.
There are also separate pages on this blog containing links to music composed by my husband, Philip, and to Christmas stories which I have told here at Seal in place of sermons on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Between the lines

"The time came for her to be delivered.
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes
and laid him in a manger."

What was it like for you, Mary, between the lines.
In the long, dark night
and the waiting.
Mother of God-with-us, what did you feel
in your delivery, our deliverance?
The birth of a different child in the birth that all of us have.

"Birth is a time of joy, but also of pain.
The swollen belly, aching back, dragging pull like an iron band.
The stretching, impossible stretching,
and pushing that is pain and joy in the same cry.

Birth is a time of wonder, and yet despair.
Through a dark tunnel to a new world.
Will you ever be born?
Will the pain get better or worse?
Can I live, can I keep control?
At the end, will you be all right?

Birth is a time of hope, and yet of fear.
What will you be?
Will you bring me sorrow or joy?
Will I spoil your life with my wrong?
The shadow of death, of the world I give to you, child,
among children downtrodden, pushed away, scarred by neglect,
lies mixed in my mind with my bright hopes.
You who are born to die, will you wish you had never been born?
Will it be my fault if you fail?"

And suddenly, breaking your broken thou.ghts,
there was your first-born son.
Like mine,
small, weak, crying for food,
God-with-us then,
and now,
in the least of our children.


Christmas 87

Monday, 6 June 2016

You and I


You, startled in your fishbowl crib,*
and I,
washed down and lain between cool sheets
after the sweat and blood of your arrival
watch each other.

Left alone,
(- we were the only ones last night
committing miracles -)
we find ourselves fixed in conspiratorial surprise,
gazing, as if,
for all that we shared
nine months swelling expectation
this was somehow not what we expected.

Most of all,
(and strange!)
we never thought
the world would now be
quite so different.
I,
transformed from isolated independence
find I am become the wellspring of the future,
tied through time and over oceans to the whole of life. 
You,
opening a space, and love and grief, where there were none,
forcing your way into the fabric of existence
have enlarged the universe
with your small, growing self,

Your dreams did not encompass change
and mine were limited to tiny hands and nappies
yet between us
we have changed the world.

  
July 92
For Michael


*In case you aren’t familiar with maternity wards , the cribs are made of transparent plastic – easy to see the baby, and easy to clean I suppose. But they really look like fishbowls!


Winter song

A bird calls
in the winter darkness
just before the grey dawn.
Not some joyful springtime song
but one note
repeated
saying I am here
anyway.

Dec 15

Winter's depth

Finally
the last leaf falls
and there is nothing
but the ghostly tangle 
of old man’s beard
draped across the hedgerows.

Finally 
the colours fade
to silent greys
and the land at last
sinks into sleep.

Finally 
we stop our striving
and lie peaceful 
in the arms of love.



Dec 05

Weekend

On Friday night
creation howled
as sorrow's needles snagged the earth's loose woven cloth,
and pulled its sinew threads together
tight against the pain.

On Friday night
the world, round mouthed with horror, echoed
wood to nails, rope to stone
"life killed
love lost ;
fire quenched
hope disappointed."
And our God was silent
as the lights went out.

On Saturday
we listened, hearing noises in the darkness.
But it was nothing.
Just the rattling of our fears.

But on Sunday, though we'd stopped our ears,
a wondering whisper crept beneath the door,
tossed on the gleeful winds.

"A strange man
newly come to town
found loitering,
by the roadsides,
in the graveyard,
half known in the firelight
spinning stories."

And hearth to hearth told small, domestic tales of resurrection.

On Sunday, when we listened, and heard at last,
our Christ strolled laughing, back from Hell
with all our ransomed lives
stuffed in his knapsack.


Easter 1990




Traveller



He was bedraggled
mud-dust-grime bespattered clothes and tangled hair.
- No one had smoothed it for a while -
But often on his weather scoured face
a flash of joy exploded
at some old joke , or some last laugh or some unexpected triumph.

He had no home, except the next step on the road,
and all he owned he carried in a battered bag slung on his back
- one flask of oil
- one jar of wine
- one loaf of bread
- some water in a bottle
- and a small reed pipe to play on at the end of day.

And what tunes he could spin!
Laments by firelight for our flowing tears
and jigs and reels for dancing on our blisters. 
And when night came what tales he could tell!
To make the fire leap and the trees laugh
and to break your heart, and mend it.

He had joined my journey where the road divided,
I suppose,
for thinking back, I didn't see him coming.
When I asked his destination he just smiled and answered,
“Mine to know and yours to find!”
But I can tell you where he'd been –
for each foot had a red raw hole
and, as he travelled,
walking on his wounds,
his steps left bloody footprints on the road behind.


Aug 90
When I wrote this I lived near Glastonbury, a place which attracts many people, for all sorts of reasons. Many of them seemed to have been battered by life in some way. It was common to find a traveller on the doorstep, homeless and penniless, and to be rustling up a cheese sandwich and a mug of tea to keep them going. Who knows who those travellers were, underneath the inevitable grime and scars their lives had left them with? I was always aware that I might be meeting Christ in the guise of a stranger, just as the two disciples making their way back to Emmaus did on the first Easter Sunday.





“the rain is over and gone…” *


“the rain is over and gone…” *


You and I
have both weathered the storms.

In our separate arks
on distant oceans
we have listened to the lash of rain
and waited in the darkness
as the engulfing waters rose.

But now,
miraculously,
we have made landfall
on the same shore
and together,
wondering,
we step through the flotsam
in a bird-sung dawn.

  
*(Song 2.10-12)


For my husband, Philip, as we prepared to get married. We had this reading from the Song of Songs at our wedding.
Oct 30, 2003  

The peacock takes his place in heaven



In India the gods ride on a peacock's back,
and yet outside the gates of Heaven he waited,
unconvinced that here within these shining barricades
there was a place where he might find a home.

He watched the other birds
- drab greys and sober browns –
settle smugly in the mustard tree,
spreading out their wings.
No room for peacocks there.

But God had seen him hiding just beyond the wall,
and wept,
and went outside.

“Come in.  What better place for you than here ? 
Come in. 
Who made your plumage, who, your crested head?
Who practised blue and green and purple on your silky tail?
Come in.  For who but I created you to tell the solemn world
that heaven does not happen only here behind these jewelled walls
but everywhere you spread your God-reflecting feathers.”

Slowly, with a wary hope,
the peacock lifted up his head
and looked into the iridescent eyes of God

"Climb on my back, “the peacock softly cried,
"we'll go together through these gates,
and I shall be a fitting bearer for the King of kings.”

  
4th Dec 97

I wrote this for a friend who was discovering his colourful nature. 
In Hindu belief one of the sons of Shiva, Kumari – also known as Skanda – who is the God of war, rides on a peacock.

Sentinel

My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchman waits for the morning” Ps 130:6 .



I've often said to new recruits,
(stamping their frozen feet along the ramparts
on their first night watch)
"It's wrong to think that night is only darkness.'

"See ! A thousand stars,
like tiny pinpricks in the velvet of the sky,
and the moon's cold glow,
texture the land with shadow
You can see more than you think!
Night vision is the skill
of telling apart a million shades of grey.”

"The task’s important,”
I remind them,
“One of you at least, must spot
the unexpected enemy or welcome guest
- the bane or blessing -
and, with clarion call,
draw sleepers from their beds and chase away their dreams.
This is a job for heroes!”

I have tried to sound convincing.
The night watch need a platitude or two
to prop their eyelids open.
But, if truth be known,
the sight I've longed for most in these cold hours
appears, not on the road, but in the sky,
as sunrise inches colour through the grey
and melts the icy stars
and drowns the moon in light.


Anne Le Bas. 23rd Dec 96


An Inarticulate Poem

This was written for my spiritual director at the time, after a session in which I had struggled to find the words to express what I meant! Click on the image for a larger version.


One Carol Service too many. (A reflection on getting involved)


The church is full of angels.
Tinsel slivers moult onto the tiles,
straying into every corner.
Glittering,
they will be discovered
long after the heavenly host have disappeared
 - wings furled beneath their coats.

Mary and Joseph (yet again) have made the long
journey up the aisle to worship at the crib
I see them hovering, undecided, on the chancel steps. 
Stranded in confusion,
looking for Grandma in the crowd,
they have forgotten why they came.

Meanwhile the unaccustomed congregation sings,
- almost inaudibly  - ­the praises of the Christ child.
Huddled,
- as if fearful that the words they never meant to utter
might be taken down and used in evidence against them -
­fighting shy,
they stand
ready to hurry these holy storytellers out into the night.

And anger surges
unexpectedly ,
as I recoil from their reluctant presence.

Shocked by myself,
I find I am as frightened of their cold indifference
as they are of the threat of this dream-shattering tale.

And yet,
despite our crucifying fears,
the God who melded his own being
nerve by nerve with humankind
who shot his glory through our births and deaths and resurrections
still,
amidst the tinsel,
comes to us with painful mercy.


Christmas 93.



Lost Lessons


Put it behind you, they said
meaning well .
Put it behind you,
leave it and move on

Toss it over your shoulder
extravagantly like a bride’s bouquet,
no longer needed.

Drop it ,
like a surreptitious wrapper,
with a faint sense of guilt.

Let the kind wind catch it,
like a faded flower or a dead leaf,
not worth chasing .

Do as you please, they said,
meaning well ,
but put it behind you

Leave it rotting
where the bones can only
whisper their lost lessons
to the earth and the empty air.


Ascension?


Of course they all thought he'd gone up.
They would.
But then, they didn't see what I saw.
I was late,
still struggling up the hill
long after the excitement started
(someone had to stay behind to wash the dishes).
That's how I saw what the others missed.

Angels?
Trumpets?
Heavenly choirs?

No. When the cloud came down
he simply stepped out backwards
sliding quietly through the fog.
(Knowing of their fondly held belief
that Up is Good
he guessed they'd all be standing
with their faces turned towards the sky.)
So no one noticed.

When he passed me, halfway down the hill,
he put his finger to his lips.
"Don't tell," he whispered.
"Never fear," I shrugged,
"They haven't listened yet to anything I've said."

I've sometimes seen him since
- a glimpse or two,
a shadow disappearing round a corner,
but it's always seemed a good idea to leave him to his own devices.

Where ?
Not telling !
You can think of better things to do
than trailing after heroes
can't you ?

 A fragment from a non-canonical Gospel by an unnamed female disciple.

8th May 93

This was inspired by a priest friend who commented that Ascension was his favourite time of the year because it was the time when "Jesus got out of the way". That might sound surprising, but there is a danger that we focus so much on the person of Jesus that we lose sight of what we are called to do ourselves as his sisters and brothers. 

Dragonlands: A temporary valediction to a friend on his way to China at a time of personal challenge


My friend is travelling into dragonlands –
almost as far as he can be from where he was.

My friend is travelling into dragonlands
like St. George!
The only difference is
he goes without
the lance,
the horse,
and all the fine protective gear.

Defences would be cheating.

Dragons are not fooled by shining armour.
They look down their fiery noses
with aloof disdain
at those who come to face them
fortified with any more than terror
and the faith of friends.

But when he comes back
with the dragon slain
or turned into a wild companion,
when he comes back
- scorched perhaps –
I shall be glad to hear his stories.



15th Sept 91.