Poetry

Some years ago when I was working on a 'Listening to God' unit for Christian Listeners, I wrote the following:

 

I’d like to walk with you, Lord

 

I’d like to walk with you, Lord

Along a coastland path.

I’d love to tell you stories

And hear you belly laugh.

I’d love to stop at a headland point

And gaze at the restive sea,

And listen to your gentle voice

Describing how you feel.

 

I’d love to walk with you, Lord

Into a shopping mall.

I’d love to see what shops you’d like

And if you’d use a credit card.

I’d love to stop for coffee

at a table on the street;

I’d love to see who’d come with tears

To wash their Saviour’s feet.

 

I’d love to walk with you, Lord

Into a local church:

I’d love to see what songs you’d sing -

Would you really like that dirge

That everybody strained at

While they took the offering?

And would you like the vicar’s style

Of intoning everything?

 

And I wonder where you’d sit Lord

At the front, or at the back?

And would you dance with a coloured flag -

Would you have the knack?

And who would you go and chat to

Over coffee in the hall?

Would you stop with one or two

Or would you try to see them all?

 

I guess I’m just being silly;

You’re God, for goodness sakes!

Your time is spent on major things

Not chatting to your mates.

But then I can’t help thinking

In your days in Galilee

That you did have walks with your good friends

And you chattered by the sea.

 

So perhaps I’m not that stupid

To think you’d walk with me.

Maybe I need to listen more

To look, and hope to feel

Your presence as I travel

On cliff path, street or pew,

To hear your laughter, sighs and tears

that inwardly renew

 

That part of me that has grown dull

But wants so much to see.

I’m tired of so much common sense

I’m tired of sanity!

Yes, I’d like to walk with you, Lord

No matter what they say

I’m going to put my boots on

Can I walk with you – today?

 

 

 

Michael Mitton

January 2002

 

 

 

 

Pilgrimage Poems

In the last few years I have served as spiritual accompanier for Pilgrimages to early Celtic Christian sites led by Russ Parker. Here are some of the poems that I have written:

 

CIARAN

Ciaran was born in 515. He founded a number of monasteries and came to Clonmacnoise in 549 to establish a new Christian community in the busy crossroads of river and road transport.  He died not long after founding the community, which, after his death became one of the greatest centres of mission and learning in Ireland.

 

Thus Ciaran died

While peaty smoke caressed his face

And swans swooped over Shannon reeds

In the morning mist.

What did he see in those dying moments

Beyond the teary faces of faithful friends?

Did he see the future vision for which he strove?

Did he see the busy scenes of gospel-hearted scholars

And flames of brilliant light

Unextinguished by the cold winds of persecution?

Or were his eyes fixed on a greater flame,

The light of all lights?

 

Whatever his eye saw in those fading moments

There were those there who were so heated

By Ciaran's firey vision

That they travelled to the ends of the earth with that flame

And a darkened world blazed up in luminous glory.

 

Oh God

Let my heart be lit by such unquenchable fire

That even the valleys of deepest darkness

Will be enflamed with tender Christ-light.

 

16 August

Clonmacnoise

 

BRENDAN

 Brendan was born in 484 Brendan was born near Tralee in the south-west of Ireland.  He was an active planter of monastic communities. In his early 60's he felt the call to search the seas of the West. In the Voyage of Brendan this is described as a part literal exploration, and part spiritual quest for Paradise.  After he returned from his voyage he continued his community planting and died in his nineties and was buried at Clonfert.

 

Dear God

Brendan was as mad as a bear with toothache

But it was a madness you loved

And you took hold of that old bear

And threw him out to sea

'Til he returned to land with such a wild tale

That even the priests laughed themselves silly.

The people danced in the surf of Bantry Bay

And a thousand coracles set sail

Into the bright breeze of your Spirit.

 

O Lord madden me by that same Spirit

Bring on the God-blessed flights of fancy

Inebriate me with Holy Ghost visions

And set me free to behold with the eyes of my heart

Great wonders on the high seas of God.

 

17 August

Dingle

 

BRIGID

Brigid was born around 454. She was the Abbess of the monastery at Kildare that included both women and men. She was known for her kindness and charity, assisting the poor and freeing slaves. The fire she lit in the heart of her community burned for a thousand years, and the remains of this fire temple exist to this day.

 

Brigid

Leading lady, leading light and brightly lit leader;

You were fuelled by the Breath of God

And the deep breath of a people inhaling the life of Christ.

Lit by compassion you reached out with healing.

Your flame burned for a thousand years

Tended by women of faith

And your fire is still remembered

By those who seek the warmth of Christ.

 

Dear God, open the vents of heaven

That I may catch my breath at your wonders

Fill me, that I may breathe upon the dimly burning wicks

And the fragile fires burning in the hearts

Of your servants in this beloved yet wounded world

And let the compassion of Brigid

Be as a fire in the temple of my soul.

 

 

19 August

Kildare

 

 

KEVIN

 Kevin was born in the middle of the 6th century. He founded his monastery in the lower valley of Glendalough, but later felt called to live the life of a hermit in the upper valley. He was at heart a mystic and was a great poet. He was a gentle and kind person with an unusual affinity to nature.

 

Gentle Kevin

Few heard your footsteps in the forest

As you searched for your place of prayer.

You came to your mountain like an evening mist;

Mystery hung in the valley

While poetry rose in your soul.

Young mystic, dark-battling, light-releasing saint

You settled in your quiet soil

As autumn leaves brushed the lips

That quivered in devotion.

 

Sweet Jesus

May I too find my high places of prayer;

Give me the grace to live with the shadows of God

And let holy mists of glory

Rise in praise to my most dear Creator.

 

19 August

Glendalough

 

BRYNACH

 Brynach was born in Ireland some time in the 6th century. He felt called to plant a community in Wales but initially there was strong opposition to him because he was Irish and following an attack he was seriously wounded with a spear. He was also attacked by demons, but survived all these and eventually planted his community at Nevern. Visitors today can see an ancient high cross, and yew trees 1200 years old, one of which weeps blood-red sap.

 

Dazed by the spear wound

Brynach found himself lowered

Into the sacred stream of Redspring.

And there, through the gentle hands of friends

The healing of Christ repaired his torn body.

He knew his destiny:

To plant a home in this foreign land

And this he did

Despite the hostile threats of men and demons.

This home still stands where ancient trees weep red

And a high gold-splashed cross

Reaches triumphant to a wild Welsh sky.

 

Dear Lord grant me Brynach's perseverance

That I may not fear the wounds from hostile hands

Nor be distracted in my quest

To build life-giving homes

Where the redspring of your Cross

Will weep with healing glory

On the sons and daughters of this wounded earth.

 

20 August

Nevern

 

NON

 Non gave birth to David around 500 during a great storm. Tradition has it that when she gave birth, nearby water gushed from the ground and became a natural spring of water that has flowed ever since. It has been regarded as one of the most sacred wells of Wales, and many healings have taken place here.

 

We see you, Non,

In paintings, windows and sculptures

As a serene mother

Holding your infant, David, to your side.

 

But on that day when your waters broke

You gripped the stone on which you lay

And in your agony you birthed that young saint

Into Welsh destiny.

With his birth

The waters of the earth broke

Upon the bright sea-breezed headland

And have never ceased to flow.

To this crystal stream

Countless followers have pilgrimmed

To mark their new birth

And to feel the cool waters that rise from the dark earth.

 

Oh God,

Let your fountains of living water

Spring up again upon our dry land.

Flood us with the waters of new life

Flowing from the deep earth

Of your most generous heart.

 

21 August

St.Davids

 

ILLTYD

 After studying on Caldey Island, Illtyd founded a community at the place now called Llantyd Fawr in around 500.   Illtyd was a fine soldier, but was dramatically converted when meeting the hermit Cadoc. He had a brilliant mind studying maths and philosophy, and he became a fine Bible scholar.

 

In the candlelight

Illtyd leans over his grainy wooden desk.

His head is as still as a standing stone

As he draws his mind once more

Into the pages of Holy Scripture

That are to him the brightest of lights

In a world of deep shadows.

The hand that once wielded a great iron sword

Now grasps the feather of a goose

And in the silence

Wisdom is scratched onto another page of history

And the foes of God are silenced.

 

O Lord

Bless the mind you have entrusted to me

Take me deep into your sacred Scriptures

That well stand the test of time

And let me wield your wisdom

With an Illtyd heart

That radiant truth will set the captive free.

 

23 August

Llantwit Fawr

 

BREACAN

Breacan came to the island of Inis Moir in the Aran Islands, Ireland, in the late 5th or early 6th century, around the same time as Enda, whose communities also occupied the island. To the north of the island can be found a collection of buildings known as ‘The Seven Churches’, which would have been Breacan’s community.Within these buildings are the remains of the ‘Bed of the Holy Spirit’.

 

This ancient place of gathered stones on Inis Moirwas once your home.

We see it clearly – though now in ruins.

It is not tired or worn, but enduring and strong.

Each grey stone, hewn and shaped with such care

holds memory

That is so alive, we almost hear its ‘hosanna’.

 

So here we sit in this bed of Holy Spirit

where once faithful people cameto dip their unshamed bodies

into the cool water

and with their eager hands grasped the love-carved cross

and felt the bond of earth and heaven

both yielding their tender blessings.

Thus our unclothed spirits reached up

with untroubled praiseto the wild, wild unroofed sky.

 

Oh God, lay me down on this thy Holy Spirit bed

cleanse me in its deep water

bring my earth and heaven to a sacred meeting

And in this resting place

breathe into me such dreams and visions

that will not fleein the busy beat of day.

 

10 April 2014

Inis Moir

 

SENNACH

Sennach founded a monastery on the island of Illauntannig, just north of Castlegregory on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Visitors to the island can still see the remains of the monastic community, including some beehive cells, a cross, church and burial ground. Access to the island is not easy!

 

Your hand that clutches the rim of your coracle

is the same that gently lifts its blessing

on your isle.

Such swells and currents don’t disturb you

for you dream them in your salty sleep.

You feel the surges of God in these waters

divine heaves and sighs

signs of the yearnings of God;

glimpses of the grace of God

in the fin of a passing dophin.

Is that why you set sail to this island

and built your tent from its rough earth?

 

I see you there, your blistered hand lifting dark stones

one upon the other

transforming these cold rocks into a vibrant home.

This your dysart, beckoning the surf of God

to break over the dry, dry land.

 

Oh Lord, when I settle too much on my mainland

take me back to these waters.

Let me feel again the movements of the great sea

the surgings of your restless heart.

Let me see the glittering surf

your life breaking through the waters

my soul at last in tune with yours.

 

13 April 2014    Dingle Peninsula

 

 

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Our God of Hope

There is a God whose light shines in every darkness
There is a God who hears every lament
There is a God who transforms even the deepest grief
Therefore you have hope:
You shall sing again, but with a different tune
You shall dance again, but with a different step
You shall laugh again, but with a different breath
Not yet, but one day,
For there is a God who heals your wound
with the gentlest hand.

This is a poem I wrote some years ago for some friends of mine who experienced a sudden and terribly tragic family bereavement. The situation seemed so hopeless, but as I prayed for them I realised that there was hope around, but hope didn't mean everything would get better and we'd all get over it - far from it. The bereavement would cause us to change, and within that change there would be newness. I also wanted to include a note about not trying to find hope in a hurry, but to give it time.