Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not Prosaic

I feel that this poem owes a great deal to my greatest influence, the work of R.S.Thomas. No apologies - only gratitude.


And God said: sing me
a song. Talk of me only
in poetry, so that your mind
is not bound. Do not confine
me in your prose, for you will
lose me in the thicket
of your language. Rather
let your words ring with the
resonance of my love,
sounding deep in the hearts
of all who hear the visions
of their transparent ambiguity.

©C.M.M. 12/07

Sunday, December 02, 2007

North West

See – on the globe’s curve
where the land ends in darkness
and mankind’s small flame-light
meets the black of the ocean
where the long dusk of summer
is the dream of a heartache
and the warmth of the sun’s light
is lost in the wind blast –
this is where hearts turn
eastward in longing
cry for the Christ-light
to illumine their bleakness
wait for the journey
to lead them to growing
once more believing
the sun will return.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cafe in Cromer

I wrote this poem after seeing a small b&w photo of an old lady drinking tea in a cafe in Cromer, in the guardian's excellent Guide to Photography. In a way, I suppose I'm imitating Edwin Morgan's Instamatic Poems, but at the time I didn't think about that. Rather, I was overcome by memories and a sense of pathos - and those memories were in colour. I deliberately refrained from reproducing the photo - the poem should after all be able to stand alone.
Anyone who remembers my previous struggles with line layouts in html will note that I seem to have solved the problem!


On a bleak sea promenade
where the seagulls soar and scream
lights behind a steamed window
promise warmth and refuge from the
grey wind that carries rain.
People hunch among the dark tables
and smeared vinyl of the floor.
Pleasure? Do we visit
such places for pleasure or
need? A thick white cup
half-full of pale brown
- the tint of which says tea, tea
babied by over-milking –
and that nameless lump
yellow on the plate, a thin
line of red promising sweetness:
will these items sustain
or please?
               The grim posture, the
downturn of an old woman’s mouth
defy speculation. Who can know
what need brings her here,
what loneliness in a tidy flat
over a dust-flecked hearth?


Friday, November 23, 2007

Amtrak: Williamsburg - New York

Train arriving
Originally uploaded by goforchris
A tall train, necessitating
two small steps for us
to board. The announcements
begin with the first
halt: We will be continuing
momentarily. We do
Thank you for your patience.
We flash past Quantico –
a marine base on a river –
where the Presidential helicopters
crouch beside the track.
Potomac river is frozen over
before the Washington icons
glimpsed through gaps
in nondescript structures.
An iceberg forms beneath
a tap left running
on the platform where
the workers wear
padded red tartan shirts.
The temperature is
significantly lower than
when you boarded – and
we feel tended, somehow,
as we glide past
Baltimore slums towards
the wolf-howl sirens
and crawling yellow cabs
like beetles in the snow
and the brown-sugar slush
and the tireless heroisms
of the men who clear the streets day and night in
New York City.

© C.M.M.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mobile Bay

Sunset 1
Originally uploaded by goforchris
Ice falls in the freezer with a
sound of distant guns.
A pelican sits hunched above
the private fishing pier
and the pampas grass is rustling
in the wind across the bay.
The towers on the blue line
where water meets the sky
give two fingers to the wind’s threat
of destruction held at bay
and the duskless shadows lengthen
as the sun drops to the sea
in the amber of the evening
and the log-fired cocktail hour.

© C.M.M. 11/07

Sunday, November 11, 2007


In the dust-laden ochre
Where our fear is embodied
Storms death sent from heaven, and
Here on our quiet hills
Rain falls, gently.

In the wind a wild keening
Binds victim to victim through
Stone-broken desert while
Quiet in my garden a
Bird sings, alone.

High above a grey shadow,
Its long wings extended,
Brings the end of all loving as
Over our altars the
Spirit drifts, weeping.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Beautiful, no?
Originally uploaded by goforchris
What do they see, such
Dark eyes, liquid and huge
In this small face?
Eyes that have looked on heaven
In the close darkness
Of a long growing and
Emerged, calm and unblinking
To this sudden daylight wakening,
Untroubled by the world’s grief,
Yet carrying an innocent knowledge of all things.
I cannot look away, as this
Small sorceress holds my gaze
In hers. The invisible thread
Tightens, reformed again,
Tying me to this new life.

©C.M.M. 08/07

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Not online

Edgar's headstone
Originally uploaded by goforchris
A new poem which I began a year ago. It seems to me that there is a link between our cyber-communication and the sense of connection with the dead, but it can be the case that funeral rites can underline the finality of death even as they affirm the continuation of the spirit.


It is finished. All the rites
Which mark the parting of a friend
Completed in an afternoon
Of sunlight hot on new-mown grass
And birdsong aching in our hearts.

I cannot bear to have it done –
This last farewell, the final act
Of thanks and loving at life’s end.
We turn to face the road again
And though we talk, remember well
And fondly laugh at what we shared
There will be no more actual space
Devoted to the life now past.

I leave his name upon the list
Of those who phone – but if I rang
The screen would tell me “Not online”
And that is what it means. The end
Of sharing words across a world,
The end of wisdom, comfort, grave advice,
Of laughing, teasing, human faults –
All stopped. No sharing left. Cut off.

The hot grass undulates in folds.
A lone bird calls and in its song
Repeated: User not online.

©C.M.M. 07/07

Friday, April 27, 2007

Glen Rosa

Rosa Burn again
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
I wrote this poem some years ago, but after a return to the glen yesterday it seems appropriate to reproduce it here - despite the fact that the heady scents of summer were missing on a glorious spring day! The poem appears in Ridgewalk.

Glen Rosa

Once more I have left
The still, incense-laden air of
God's holy places
And come again
To the wild freedom
Of his hills. Here
Thyme's incense never
Fails to breathe its pungent
Perfection and prayer seems
A continual state of being,
Here, where the torrents
Roar in time-worn depths.
And high above, joyous and fragile,
The larksong's antiphon
Soars in the rainwashed air.

© C.M.M.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Supposing him ...

I wrote this poem more than ten years ago, in a year when I lost too many friends. It was inspired, however, by an Eastertide sermon given by one of them, my friend Colin Wheately.


Supposing him to be
The gardener, the Magdalene
Turned for comfort.
As friends are culled,
Choicest blooms from
The garden of my life,
I too must turn to
This gardener of souls.
Fragile as the blossoms
In the beauty that He gave
They now repay the years
Of careful nurture, but no longer
Where I may see them.
Supposing Him to be the gardener,
I cannot grudge Him
His own, but
My garden is barer for their
Passing. I must wait for
The Gardener to come again.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring flowers

Flowers 3
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
A strange gift, this
Small, scarred root
Long buried in barren soil,
But she gave it -
Trembling and fearful of
Winter's mockery on
Spring's new growth.
But the light - the
Light that burst in
Unforeseen splendour
In that silent place
Cherished this precious
Shared flowering in its
Vulnerable birth.
And the wounded gardener
Smiled, and turned from the
Tomb-mouth, and
Left the woman to
Face the dawn.


Saturday, April 07, 2007


Station of the Cross

Bound in the chains
Of our weakness, our spite,
Derided in the purple of
The world’s acclaim,
Our Lord confounds power.
And the people shout
Crucify him
And the weakness of power mutters
Crucify him
And the confusion of the soul whispers
Crucify him
And they lead him forth to
Crucify him.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Night watch

Yesterday's Maundy Thursday poem was written three years ago. This one came to me last night, during the Maundy Watch - always a powerful time of prayer and image.


Is it here, God, in this garden
where the light wind stirs the leaves
silvered in the hard blue moonlight
- is it here that we must struggle
in the dialogue of self with self?
But the words are hardly spoken
when the vast and swelling ache
- a kind of joy, but of such sharpness
that I gasp, and words are stilled -
of the God so close within me
grows and self is marginalised,
pushed towards the edge of being
so that all I know is Him.
In this sudden fiery knowledge
friends who cannot understand
seem ephemeral and tiny –
Pray, I tell them, watch and pray,
as it comes upon me fiercely
that the end is here, this night,
that the God I carry in me
brooks no shrinking from this goal.
Now my soft palms spread in pleading
look so gentle, feel so dear
and this vulnerable body
breathes and weeps in dread of pain,
till the world turns and the strangers
bring this night watch to its close
and the brother’s kiss of greeting
a last gentle touch of love.

©C.M.M. 04/07

Thursday, April 05, 2007


The sun sinks towards the hills
As Christ’s words intertwine
With birdsong. Not the dawn’s
Reminder of betrayal, but a
Sweet and undulating current
Flowing into the dark of evening.
In the shadowed garden the song is
Silenced by advancing night,
The prayer silenced by acceptance.

The world’s careless beauty
Mocks the black flames of death –
Birds sing above the drawn sword,
Trees toss over the betraying kiss,
Green earth absorbs the bloodshed,
Men struggle to the light of a distant dawn.
The earth turns still.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

February Poem

And in his garden
in the second month
the hard green spikes
forced their narrow way through
the cold earth, as
Nature's relentless renewal
mocked the many dead.
No spiritual resurrection here, but
undiminished life, visible,
predictable in its season.
But the dead in their
narrow graves bore only
the offerings of remembrance,
rotting in the black blast
from the rain-hid hills,
and faith seemed fainter now
than the sharp blade that
severs, and the distant song of love
was carried in the wind.

© C.M.M.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

February Rowan Tree

Last morning

I wrote this poem a year ago while I was in New Zealand, in the area of Central Otago where goldmining flourished in the 19th century. The contrast of their early autumn with our dreary winter was endlessly powerful.


A hot wind blows from dusty hills
Under the bright bowl of the sky.
No rain will fall this day, and none
This whole, parched week.
The ghosts walk quiet beside the lake,
The blue grave where their past still sleeps,
And in the hills the crunching scrub
Conceals the burrows where they dug
And crouches on their cold hearth stones.
Now grapes hang heavy in the sun.
A cricket calls. The dry grass sings
And in a garden far from home
Where winter's grasp is barely loosed
The blood red rowans swing.

© C.M.M. 02/06

Monday, January 08, 2007

New poem


Cumulus is stacked
high in accumulated layers
of grey. Here and there
a line of pink light
betrays the sun we
cannot see. But over
the curved loch a
skein of blue opens
its torn wings on heaven,
a window to what is
always there.

We must
hold to that hidden
lightness when the dark
closes on the mind
like the grip of winter
on the tired embers
of our chilly faith.

©C.M.M. 01/07

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Poem for R.S.Thomas

I've been writing over on blethers about the new biography of R.S.Thomas, and about Thomas' poetry, about which I am passionate. The poem reproduced below I wrote on the day I woke to hear the radio announcement of his death.


I awake to the knowledge
that the one who could
voice such emptiness has
gone in the grey, rain-
worried morning and left
this vacuum my words cannot fill.
How can I bear the
silencing of that voice whose
parting arrows never failed to
pierce my soul,
whose wrestling with his
god defined my own,
other than by hoping for the
bird-shadow of his passing?

©C.M.M. 09/00

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The feast of the Epiphany

Another poem from "Ridgewalk"


‘Surely,’ said the fourth,
‘I should bear this gift: to
walk lightly through
the world’s pain; to give
love without the hostage,
and stem the blood’s flow without
bleeding; to offer self and
not feel the tiny
hooks tear the mind –
loving with no demand,
trusting without proof,
believing and yet
letting go?’
And God smiled
and walked the road to
the thorns’ crown that was
the last gift of love.


The feast of the Epiphany

Another poem from "Ridgewalk"


‘Surely,’ said the fourth,
‘I should bear this gift: to
walk lightly through
the world’s pain; to give
love without the hostage,
and stem the blood’s flow without
bleeding; to offer self and
not feel the tiny
hooks tear the mind –
loving with no demand,
trusting without proof,
believing and yet
letting go?’
And God smiled
and walked the road to
the thorns’ crown that was
the last gift of love.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Another Epiphany

This poem has actually gone the rounds a bit - I posted it on blethers at this time last year, and it appears in the collection "Who - me?" However, as I now have this poetry blog and some new (I hope) readers, I repost it as a further working of the ideas which surfaced in the earlier poem.


We plod through a desert
of our own making. We,
the wise men of our time, knowing
everything and nothing, search for what
we do not understand.
The mysteries of time and space are
hidden from us no longer, but
inner space defeats us.
The vacancy offends our
proud mastery of life and death.
We who cure and kill with
profligate ease cannot bear
such painful uncertainty.

And so with each
turning year we mount our
star-led beasts and seek again
the strange child, desperately.

And some are seeking kindness
or the fleeting warmth of joy,
and some the distant music
of a half-remembered song.
But do we dare to follow
where that star-light leads,
clutching tawdry gifts as
the proof of our intent?

far beyond the stable where the
child becomes the man
the swift breath of love's passing bears
the wood scent and the tears
and the guideless journey onward
from the weeping and the tomb.