Tuesday, December 23, 2008


For Alan

That first day, the day we met,
when he lay quiet in my arms
I gazed at his small, sleeping face
and willed that he should look at me
and know. Yet when the black eyes blinked
and opened on the world I was
quite unprepared for such a dark
profound solemnity as if
this tiny boy could see into
the whole immensity of life
and claim it there, and know it his.

©C.M.M. 12/08

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent Prose revisited

I wrote this in the first week of Advent 08 after listening to the Advent Prose sung in church on Advent Sunday. The words were repeated in that morning's OT lesson from Isaiah, and by the time the reading was over the poem was already forming. It first appeared on love blooms bright

Rend the heavens, come quickly down
Can we mean it? In the dark
to ask the God to come like this
would have us tremble at the presence
sought that Sunday as we sang.
Behold, thou wast angry and we sinned -
dear God, we try, we know our sin,
we see too clearly where we are.
The veiled women weep, the bomb
explodes on distant soil:
we worry lest our own are there,
care less about the ruined lives
among the debris of our wars.
All our deeds are like a polluted garment -
hung about us in the cold
as if we fear our nakedness,
would do anything to hide.
The child dies at the hands of those
whose task is care and love
while we, appalled, avert our eyes
from innocence betrayed.
We all fade like a leaf
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away -
light little things in the face of creation
and yet, and yet ...
Lord, we continue. You have never
swept us from the face of earth.
We love and beget and children
lovely children, innocent and clean
come naked into the world
in your eternal promise of what can be.
Your Son will come, again, again
and we have hope, another chance
to use your world in precious ways
to hold your people to your face.
As tiny fingers clasp round ours
we reach into the dark and feel
the strength of love enfolding us.
The heavens are rent as if a cloud
were parted at the end of rain
and light will come too bright to tell -
we sing again. Come, Lord, and soon.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mary's baby

This poem was finished four hours before I knew that Alan, my grandson, had been born to Mary. It speaks to me of that other Mary while being about a contemporary birth - or indeed birth's miracle at any time.

For Alan John McIntosh

It is time. From deep within
my inner dark a sudden
fierce tightening calls out.
Be still, I say. Be quiet.
This child will come
will find the light
will be the light
new in my life, but now
I want to keep him close
keep him mine alone.

A huge force squeezes me again
taking me beyond the lighted space
into the dark of inwardness
focussed only on the pain
forgetting self and any joy
to come from such gigantic toil.
Someone cries inside my head
and anxious faces swim and fade
and leave my eyes alone to look
and marvel at a miracle
as something infinitely huge and small
is born, and lifted to my arms.

My heart is broken and remade.

My son looks up. His black eyes gaze
on heaven one last lingering time
before they close against my breast.
We are alone, and all the world
shrinks to a tiny, distant speck
as swelling joy fills all my soul.

I hold him close. My son is born.

©C.M.M. 28/11/08

Monday, November 17, 2008

November afternoon


That dreary day of early dark
I baked a cake - my thirty-fifth -
for Christmas, happy at the thought
of something done and stored away.
And as the warmly scented air
stole through the house, I glanced outside
to where the leaves could just be seen
dancing in the garden's gloom
as if in hope to see my child,
small and purposeful and quick,
come down the path towards the light
and smile at being grown-up
returning home without my help.
I smiled myself at years compressed
by memory, repeated tasks
and Christmases which mark the time
to where that child can now be seen
awaiting in his turn a child
approaching in the winter's dark.


Thursday, November 13, 2008


After the struggling's long dark
the wailing and the exhortation
the pain of separation and the sudden
rush of birth there comes a moment
precious in its quiet simplicity
when I recognise a new truth
shining in the newness of that day
as with a sudden huge swelling from my soul
replacing that hugeness now a tiny child
the happiness within is known and named.

There will be a time for more naming
and more recognition of this child
at once the closest stranger in my world
and my newest love, but now
is time for happiness alone
enjoyed and savoured in this peace
held between the movements of a song.

©CM.M. 11/08

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Autumn Flowers

Two nasturtiums bloomed today.
I saw their gold as the sun
Tipped my autumn garden with
Illusive warmth. I took the seeds
From the drawer you placed them in
Years since, and planted late in some
Faint hope of their survival.
They flower, but the year is spent
As are your years, and winter comes.
These unplanted seeds were hope
Abandoned as your vigour faded,
Their tiny sunbursts a last dawn
Of tenderness before the dark.
Go on your journey, gently, now,
The last sun warm upon your face.
©C.M.M 09/04

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

Cathedral of The Isles
Originally uploaded by goforchris
There was a church, rising
Above green terraces of
Pleasing symmetry,
Surely too neat, too
Small to encompass much
Mystery. Yet in that
Silent shell, in the golden
Brass-glow of candles,
God would touch
Careless souls, catch their
Hearts in a mesh of
Incandescent song, so that
Those who knelt there would
Pass through the veil of light
To the bright places beyond.

© C.M.M.

Hymn for Cumbrae

Cathedral of The Isles 2
Originally uploaded by goforchris
The Spirit guides me here,
to meet upon this hill
The outstretched arms, the wounded hands,
The love that finds me still.

In silence I am held,
Until my song takes flight
And breaking forth in golden notes
Fills heart and soul with light.

When I must leave this place
And face the world again
Good Saviour, from such holy ground
Come with me to the plain.

Consume my soul with fire,
Let love and peace fly free,
And at the end take all I am
And shape what I must be.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Sometimes poetry seems to me to be the only vehicle suitable to express an idea or an emotion. This poem arose from my reading of a small part of J├╝rgen Moltmann's "The Trinity and the Kingdom".


It is dark, dark night.
Take this cup – suddenly in the dark
it is too awful. But the warm tide
is receding into the dark
and the cold sweat of emptiness
takes its place. The desperate words
fall unheeded on the stony ground.
Withdrawn in a point of light
God has no ears, only pain
and tight-focussed squeezing of the great
love now raw and bright
above Golgotha. The night is past
but dark remains, and emptiness.
A searing cry bruises the great mind
drenched in the pain of loss and
separation – and this is done
for me, this hellish loss, this bruising …
so that I can see, can understand,
am not forsaken. It is too much.
Too much for me. Too much.

© C.M.M.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A sudden rush of wings heralds
a thrush in triumph with a snail
shining wetly in its beak.

A second flurry and a second
bird appears, brownish-black,
aggressive movements: I want that!

The thrush heads off, hiding deep
among the million roses’ thorns.
A black eye looks at me and then

The blackbirds’ wife with one bold move
is standing just inside the room
which smells of ironing and clean shirts –

a blink of reckless possibility –
to wreak havoc in the warm clean space
with feathers, droppings, frenzied wings …

But no. She turns, and hops away
a bird again, in her own place.
The snail? Dead meat. The sun still shines.

C.M.M. 07/08

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Once ...

In the hot silence
while he slept
and only the flies sang
she made the basket
strong with love
to hold this one most precious thing
and gave it, dry-eyed,
to the waiting flood.

© C.M.M. 08/08

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Garden at noon

The garden, Kington
Originally uploaded by goforchris
The sun’s light is such as to
obliterate all colour save the
red and purple in a pot
behind which a gang of
glossy bees plunder thick lavender.
Another casual urn is tightly packed
with small blooms –
such careless profusion betraying
the industry of cooler days.
Behind the tall poppy-brides
a sinister trampling suddenly ends
as a blackbird emerges, ruffled
in foolishness at being caught.
Pink roses hang in full-term weight
above the hidden path, guarded by
a spiky sentinel in a tall pot.
And as the tall trees toss in the
wind’s stir, three black jets
scream belatedly as they wheel.
Do they look, the men within,
to see below this garden stuffed with life
and fly on, their hot metal tombs
filled at once with remembered scents?

© C.M.M. 07/08

Monday, August 11, 2008

Llananno revisited

Llananno church
Originally uploaded by goforchris
In an empty church
where once a poet prayed
I sat, the sudden cool
a contrast with the world
of sun and life and heat
beside the river’s glint,
beneath the hurried road.

Above the skewed cross
behind the dying flowers,
the empty candlesticks,
a huge, green tree
filtered the sun's light
which flickered on the stone
as the great mind of God
thrust a small pulse of its power
into my waiting soul.


I recently visited this tiny church in the Welsh border country, a church which is barely ever used, a church immortalised in a poem by R.S.Thomas who liked to visit it in much the same way as I did.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Dead relevant

In church one day we hear
about Noah and the man
who built his house on rock.
We know about poor folk who
build on sand
or cliffs which fall down.
Global warming and
high tides: everyone is glad
to be so relevant.
But down the leafy drive
where all the shops are shut
these three girls, young and
skinny-ribbed in sun
are shouting as they show
how people lose the way
by living on the beach:
“Fucking Sunday,” they yell.
“Fucking Sunday. Eh!”

©C.M.M. 06/08

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nevada Desert

The long straight.
Originally uploaded by goforchris
So this is a desert. Grey dust
stretches for miles to rumpled hills –
dust peppered with puffs of thorn
and punctuated by tall spiked shapes.
A heavy silence presses on the ears
which pound in answer as the blood
rushes round. There is no other sound.
No bird sings, no creeping thing
rustles the dry leaves, no water
drips or seeps. The huge pale sky
is windless, and the straight road
an empty slash to the far haze.
God, we are small. But in this place
man became so huge that worlds quake,
in the hideous paradox of size
destroying with the particles of God:
creators of deserts still to be.


Monday, January 07, 2008

West Coast Line

Pendolino Virgin Trains
Originally uploaded by JamesZ_Flickr
Speeding up England on the West Coast line
for Christmas, on the twenty-third,
was always going to be a journey
of parallels, of those who have and
those poor sods who haven’t booked
who squat in silent misery on
cases over-stuffed with gifts.

We slow to crawl through Birmingham
past empty gaunt gasometers,
canals and vast flat muddy plains
patched with puddles big as lakes.
The queue for coffee edges on
towards the counter where the man
has just run out of paper bags
and will not let us have hot drinks
for fear of spilling on the crowds
of squatters in between the cars.

The fogbound cityscapes give way
to late sun slanting over cows.
The couple opposite grow loud
from drinking solidly for hours.
We stop at Crewe. The dusty roof
- of glass, but fogged with layers of filth –
casts dim green light on grey cream tiles
as stragglers haul their luggage off
the heavy train, and we heave out
into the sun, a golden stream.

At Warrington we have a laugh –
the drunken woman disappears
and then returns to tell her tale,
How she’s been stuck, and phoned for help:
“I’m in the toilet in coach J –
I’m in the darkness” – and she laughed
half fearful that her plight had been
broadcast to all, but sadly, no.

Wigan: some platforms, not a pier
grey beneath the pink of dusk.
Above the wires, a large pale moon.
In red iron cubes some pansies flower
-and off we go, past playing fields
where hardy figures kick a ball.
The loud-voiced man stands up to leave
- a chance of peace from the next halt.
I think of Larkin on his train
and brood on weddings in the sun
as darkness falls and off we speed
much faster now, with no more stops
till Scotland and the homeward stretch
to Christmas and the thought of home.
The train is quieter now. I doze
and when I waken we are there.
We drag our bags down to the door
and all these strangers pull on coats
to leave the long womb of the train
and vanish in the Glasgow night.

C.M.M. 12/07