Sonnet for Palm Sunday
Hey, Donny, why did you hit sayyeed Assad?
It’s true, he did a smelly piss in his sand;
but now you’ve deployed your savage trump card,
do you think he will just do what you demand?
You hit him and why will he be gentle?
You hit him and he may stop and reflect;
Then plan renewed violence incremental,
And let his vengeful anger flow unchecked.
In one brutal act of reciprocation,
He will throw all his foul power against you and yours,
Only one possible direction – escalation,
Settling in one blow years of niggling scores.
Lord, your people with their targeting hate,
what can we work out before it’s too late?
Anti-war March, Melbourne, 1970. Image: Australian War Museum
They lie as they fell in the heat of battle,
bones and dried gore and hate’s bloody shame.
Now noise overwhelms like a machine-gun rattle,
A whisper above breathes our God’s veiled name.
They find their own body part, who knows how,
and sinews join them and swaddles with skin,
the quiet wind above whispers its vow,
and new life covers the earlier sin.
Evil army they were before they were killed,
Now they arise a non-violent array,
God’s Dominion of love is theirs to rebuild,
Fruits of kindness and joy now on display.
Across our bony fractures the breath quivers,
Today Christ’s glory in now-loved limbs shivers.
- Ezekiel 37:1-14
- Romans 8:6-11
- Lent V (Year A)
Ted Witham 2017
Photo courtesy King’s College, Cambridge
Bush church of my childhood: wait server and priest
In vestry small with vestment-chest of oak,
White robes laid out immaculately creased,
Christ’s purity, and his mother’s, evoke.
The albs are bordered in fine crafted lace,
Stole and chasuble crisply ironed arraying,
Emptied of sound, in silence of place
The server hears his predecessors praying.
Inside the small church a reed organ’s sound,
On, into the sanctuary the server leads on,
He bashful bows deep then processes round,
He offers water and wine: the Dreaming’s white swan.
My mother and grandma with pride are stilled;
They watch from the pews the now and the willed.
- Malachi 3:1-4,
- Psalm 84,
- Luke 2:22-40
In Native American stories, Dragonfly persuades the Swan to surrender to the power of the river so that she can, in a state of grace, be taken into the future. (http://www.swansongs.org/who-we-are/swan-mythology/)
Dobitj stopped us. Feet fastened to the ground.
Sinuous scales in arcing cosines flowed
(Has Adam’s time of trial come again around?)
Looped lordly on our disputed road.
Black open eyes held firmly fixed on us
You wait for me, old despot dobitj said.
And wait we did – frozen – without a fuss:
Just eye-blocked from the freedom path ahead.
Dobitj, we know, beheads its fear-filled prey,
He eats them whole, then lies low to digest.
Fascinated by laminate display
We’re blind to how meticulous we’re blessed.
Although he’s cloaked in deepest black, this other,
The splendid creature-snake, was made our brother.
Sonnet entered in the Perth Shakespeare Club’s sonnet competition 2016, and published in Sonnets on Western Australia (Perth Shakespeare Club of W.A.)
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of Most High will be free
to birth in you an active new world-view,
holy in all its ways offspring will be.
All that is born from you and comes from God
will promote good and new adventures make:
will pierce your heart and old assumptions prod,
and awkward cause your heart to break.
God calls three things in sum: observe and learn
God’s ways and see how they will grow in you;
know the ache chosen endeavours will earn:
the pain when material wealth accrues.
When God calls, few the perks in saying yes,
We greet the seed that grows and loves to bless.
- Luke 1:35, (26-38)
- Ted Witham 2017
The seed goes in. Image: organicfarmingreport.com
A gap in the text ‘where he was a child’,
‘He came to Nazareth where’ is all that my Greek
New Testament, suggesting copyists compiled
a context in which Jesus came to speak.
The village which raised him now disclaimed him,
He’d journeyed far too far from Nazareth,
In all his boyhood tale they unnamed him
and now all jealous plotted for his death.
Scribes referenced customs of childhood here
Made Sabbath habits and reading Torah
Days of Awe to Rosh Hashanah next year,
Life lived to its end by the menorah.
There’s mercy and grief in forgetting one’s youth,
A grasping at gaps that obscure the truth.
- Luke 4:14-21 (Luke 4:16 Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis)
Arise, ablaze because your light now beams,
Godly insight, shine on just abiding aims.
The darkness that would cover earth still dreams
Of battle victory in Satanic games.
The poverty of the poor brought to nought,
The dryness of the drought be drowned in rain,
The violence of the vicious be stopped short,
The upright once disgraced honoured again.
So yes: God’s mystery wise has been revealed,
the Gospel locked in sepulchre set free,
and Jesus master of this battle-field
is fruiting flower of the frankincense tree.
For darkness has no means of quenching light:
Wise men blaze in the beacon of Twelfth Night.
- Isaiah 60:1-6,
- Psalm 72:1-7,10-14,
- Ephesians 3:1-12,
- Matthew 2:1-12
Adoration of the Magi, Andrea Mantegna, 1495-1505. Painting in John Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles