The Cross of the Donkey

I’ve always been laughed at:donkey cross
Silly ass,just a donkey,
two a penny,
a beast of burden.

So when I hit the heights that Sunday,
palm branches beneath my hooves,
easing the pain of the Jerusalem hills,
carrying the Carpenter of Nazareth
on my back like a king,
I thought:

never again,
will they break sticks across my back,
or leave me starving in fields,
untrimmed feet grown ridiculous,
obscene and crippling.
Oh, no, the world will know
a donkey, a donkey,
carried the Prince of Peace into Jerusalem.
The laugh’s on them now.

That’s what I thought.
I should have known better.
With hindsight they blame me.
I should have known
I was carrying him to his death,
that’s what they say.
Of all creatures I should know
how fickle humans are.
Why didn’t I bolt?
Why didn’t I stop dead in my tracks?
Dig my hooves in?

So I have stood
broken, despairing,
all through this unending night,
remembering his gentle hands on the reins,
his thoughts finding a place in my heart.
We have a battle of love to win, little donkey,
he said.And just when I thought my darkness would never end,
at dawn,
a little bird with a blooded breast
flew over.

Hold your head up, noble creature,
she cried,
your back is marked with the sign of his cross!

Donkeys all over the world
are beaten, starved, tortured,
worked till we drop.
But sometimes,
a man or woman is humble enough
to trace with reverent hands across our backs,
the imprint of his cross,
and kneel,
kneel before a donkey.

by Sylvia Sands

Groaning of Creation

in Darkness Yielding

I think I’m getting to like poetry

I’ve never been a huge poetry fan. At school it was Robert Louis Stevenson and the Lady of Shallot. Oh there was some Burns thrown in for good measure and there must have been some in Secondary school but whatever they were, they’ve long gone. I loved reading as a child but managed to get an English teacher who almost put me off for life. (Mrs Rozga, why did I end up in your class every year of secondary school?)

I think my problems with poetry stems from having to work at it. And I am at heart a lazy old sod. So I glance at some cleverly crafted words in wiggly waggly shapes and I give up almost immediately. And why do some of them not use punctuation  What’s that all about?  And then there are the poems where the line continues on the next line… why not put it all in one line? You read it as if it is, so why not write it that way? Sometimes it is just too clever for me and I can’t be bothered working it out.

I did try writing some poetry when I was much younger and full of angst. There was one called Mother’s Little Helpers, I seem to remember, and one on The Fireworks which I couldn’t attend because I didn’t have a babysitter. You’ll see there was a theme going on there.

My eldest son writes lots of poetry. Some have even been published in obscure journals. They are pretty heavy, mind you. And not really suitable for reprinting here on such a delicate blog. I feel they should come with a health warning.

However, of late I have found myself lingering on the occasional poem and sometimes even smiling. I quite like some by Liz Lochead and Carol Ann Duffy. Mrs Icarus doesn’t fail to make me grin, for example.

Today I came across this one and I rather like it. Never heard of Billy Collins, the author, but I might look for some more. I see he was an American Poet Laureate from 2001-2003.

Man in Space

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.


This week somebody slid two little brown envelopes under the church door. Inside the two envelopes were two identical notes containing a much-photocopied anonymous handwritten note. (My thoughts of a generous donation were dashed. ) It is a poem and this is what it says:


When Jesus came to Glasgow,
they simply passed him by.
They never hurt a Hair of him,
They only let him Die.

For men have grown more tender
and they would not give him pain.
They only just passed down the Street
and left him in the Rain.

Still Jesus cried, Forgive them
for they know not what they do
and still it rained the Wintry Rain,
that drenched him through and through.

The Crowd went Home, and Jesus
crouched and left the streets
Without a Soul to see,
Against a wall and cried for Calvary.

Well, what do we think of that then? It does have the word ‘OBAN’ written in the top corner underlined twice. Did it come from there? And why was it delivered to me in Falkirk when clearly it is meant for someone in Glasgow?

Tis today’s mystery.

12 things I don’t want to hear

I came across this wee poem today in a book. It is called Twelve Things I Don’t Want to Hear by Connie Bensley

Assemble this in eight straighforward steps.
Start with a fish stock, made the day before.
The driver has arrived but, sadly, drunk.
We’ll need some disinfectant for the floor.

Ensure all surfaces are clean and dry.
There’s been a problem, Madam, I’m afraid!
We’d better have the manhole cover up.
Apologies, the doctor’s been delayed.

I’d love to bring a friend, he’s so depressed.
They’ve put you on the camp bed in the hall.
There’s just one table left, perhaps you’d share?
I know it’s midnight, but I had to call…

And it got me thinking about the things a Parish Priest doesn’t want to hear. Some of the above, for sure. Perhaps I might suggest a few more?

  1. The photographer would like to schedule a meeting to discuss the lighting for close-ups at the wedding.
  2. No, we didn’t really know the deceased. He really was a loner, was Uncle Tom.
  3. The Paschal candle won’t fit in the holder (30 minutes before the Vigil).
  4. We’ve never done it like that before.
  5. No, I’m not new – I’ve been a member for 53 years.

OK, over to you now…

The desert

The desert waits,
ready for those who come,
who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;
or who are driven
because they will not come any other way.

The desert always waits,
ready to let us know who we are –
the place of self-discovery.

And whilst we fear, and rightly,
the loneliness and emptiness and harshness,
we forget the angels,
whom we cannot see for our blindness,
but who come when God decides
that we need their help;
when we are ready
for what they can give us.

Ruth Burgess

Celebrating Women, 1995

Ash Wednesday poem

the smudge of ash

on a white brow

darkness and light

repent and turn to Christ

darkness and light

ash mixed with oil

oil to anoint

oil to heal

last year’s negatives

(the darkness)


and taken up as a cross

with confidence

into the light.

God says Yes to Me

This was too good not to share. Thank s to Bishop Alan where it first appeared.

God says Yes to Me

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

Kaylin Haught

Judas Tree

Was talking to Bishop Alan this morning about my meditations that I’ve been doing at Compline. On Spy Wednesday we shall be focusing on Judas. Bishop Alan told me of a poem by Ruth Etchells which might fit. Google found it for me…

In Hell there grew a Judas Tree
Where Judas hanged and died
because he could not bear to see
his master crucified
Our Lord descended into Hell
and found his Judas there
for ever hanging on the tree
grown from his own despair
so Jesus cut his Judas down
and took him in his arms
“It was for this I came” he said
“and not to do you harm
my Father gave me twelve good men
and all of them I kept
though one betrayed and one denied
some fled and others slept
in three days’ time I must return
to make the others glad
but first I had to come to Hell
and share the death you had
my tree will grow in place of yours
its roots lie here as well
there is no final victory
without this soul from Hell”
So when we all condemned him
as of every traitor worst
remember that of all his men
Our Lord forgave him first

D Ruth Etchells

A puffin poem

Thanks to John for this one…

St Kildan Congregation” by Derick Thomson

The fulmars are on Stac an Armainn,
living in comradeship,
their eggs keep their hold on the rock,
dancers on tip-toe,
and eternity wells up
at the foot of the rock cliffs.

The solan on Soay
fondles the gannet’s throat
the eye stares straight into space,
its beak teaches the Parables,
each one on its own nest.

And the puffins are at the edge of the rock-ledge
in their white surplices,
with their coloured beaks;
I’ve heard, but don’t know whether to believe it,
they’re Episcopalians. Well, take it or leave it.

Puffin on Staffa

We will remember them

Five Ways to Kill a Man

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this properly you require a crowd of people wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind allows, blow gas at him.
But then you need a mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
not to mention black boots, bomb craters, more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs and some round hats made of steel.

In the age of aeroplanes, you may fly miles above your victim and dispose of him by pressing one small switch.
All you then require is an ocean to separate you, two systems of government, a nation’s scientists, several factories, a psychopath and land that no-one needs for several years.

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man.
Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

by Edwin Brock