Tuesday, July 24, 2012

the overflowing.

Because the sun still rises
and rain still falls,
the sign in the sky
still appears and I can't read it.
My house and the land wherein we live
catch the glow,

catch the dew that falls
from morning.

I see the hand
but not the face. Nothing I've done
makes a difference
to what is poured out.
With a distant face and heart,
Wisdom calls out.

She offers me her hand.
She promises,
allures me to your closeness,
entices hope.

Friday, June 1, 2012

as the sun.

As light pours over the edges of the sky
in the morning,
is this light? Songs in the air
are the praise of joy and true love,
or perhaps the hollow echoes of the night.
Even nightfall is resonant
with the gentle glow,
till I wonder if you recognise the words.

Our God, for your name to be in our mouths,
our king, the one who hears,
is no small thing.

This grace is no trinket to grasp
and put away
in my pocket, in my wallet,
in a box of wood or stone or bronze.
The pride of our lips,
the tiredness of our hearts
we ask you to break. Pour your mercy
over our recklessness, in holiness,
but let my offering be pure.
You speak with me
from beyond the mountains
but my words are faltering.

Morning is breaking, smashing
to pieces my attempts to walk
where I walked, telling me
I missed the path, persuading me to turn,
to linger on the road, to turn,
to turn back and almost walk.
Where you go I will go,
remember us.

Here beyond the end of the world
and the final word, as the sun bursts over
with the flame of this day
and I almost take a step,
I see the landslide,
I feel the tumbling stones
of forgetting your face.

Remember us! Here where the light finds words
and my heart, and my mouth, whisper without sound,
I find you still. I know you by heart,
the sound of your footsteps
with us, the fullness of the word
to search among these tents
and wait for you,

you alone. As I hear the world
and the people in song,
only you
hear her and respond.

No wonder. This is no small thing
in my hands. Not emptiness,
rebellion, or a faltering sun.
Let him give her the words
of his mouth
and let me hear with your ears
when the light is opened.

Monday, February 20, 2012

a promise.

My last breath will be given back
to the one who gives it to me.
Every day till then
I will wait, I will see you.

Every morning,
let the words that catch my breath
not fall to the ground empty,
but make me come alive,

and let the brightness
of the likeness of your nearness
speak on my behalf, show me, wake me:
I have nothing else.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

sweetly I take thee, obligation dread.

Let these words, printed pages,
phrases, the smell of ink faded
be devoid of beauty now.
Come to these shelves not again,
we who beg because of hunger.
Empty them of sound or sigh,
battered by uncomfortable fits of chance,
finally divorced from dreams
to heal in sullen silence.
The elegy of beauty was stark.

Desolate in endings,
tear them from strength or pallid sweetness,
kindness, longing, choosing, sickness,
disappointment. Hate the length of sounds
and quiet friendship
of syllables, flash of something new,
chemicals and blood.
The next breath; worlds languish,
dying, and the sun burns blindly.
Sky stretches without sackcloth,
clashes all inside with something
and nothing, nothing else;
brutal our mighty steps
through towns where novels spill no light.

Let our words decay and shatter
at the sound of singleness.
Poured in a dry riverbed,
they would shout in their millions
an endless cacophony
of something
and everything else. Turn the lights brighter,
make the music louder. Drown the sky.

Heart, steal not memory
from blood or parchment,
words of any goodness.
Pour your apathy into
the mouth of earth’s darker tunnels.
Surrender cold cynicism
to the hands of one desirable,
the words that speak endlessly
and perplex us
(long nights alone).

Once, I loved you.
More than I could say.
Today I know only
the tumbling leap of my
own mind. In my universe,
your words move the air
scattering resonance,
austere and alone.

The elegy of beauty was forgettable.
We are the ones who desired,
who were satisfied.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

as if in a mirror.

Faithfulness, thankfulness,
a path known well and trodden often,
a gift, a surprise, and the hope
enveloped like a bird
in the mountains,

endless, darting
amidst the songs welcomingly.


Half-awoken, shifting or falling
in the earth; who sighed
with my sigh, near to me?
Darkling world,
you mourn the exhaustion
of rivers who flow forward
endlessly, or end
in perpetual barrenness.
Empty rivers stretch in testament
of movement.

Do we speak
to all that springs forth
green and bright as a friend,
when we people the world
with lore, knowing ourselves
in the swimmingness of rivers?
Do we shy from light with the single desire
to be, desire written intricately
across all else,
folded gently into me?

Nothing was said of this.
Who divides mercy from madness?
Who divides water from water,
light from light,
the endless darkness, hurtling,
from the sweetness of sleep,
when we wake up
deeply refreshed?
I heard you walking near

while I sat near the window on a rainy day,
and someone practised the piano.
I asked about my parents,
the parents of their parents, trying to trace
far back to what cannot be reached
in time, or in evident process.
In a simple step,
a simple way, movement in time.
We fill the pages, finite, almost endless,
all with stories,

Morning wakes
for a winsome world,
who also yearns to wake.
I yearn again to wake
when my eyes see light,
when the light falls sweetly,
when leaves sway inanimately.

A boat stirs the lake,
a child moves in the womb,
and I lie in the shade of the valley.
I lie here and try to remember
under elemented skies.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I strive to understand the words
addressed to me, unknown. Immense
as unread shelves and the minutes
till morning,
robed in silence;

you are more than I've clung to
or imagined.

Lost in the elaborate and foreign gaze,
you are to me
like one who is spoken of.

Under an unchanging sky
and windswept clouds,
you are to me like one
whose words are of more worth
than I'd known.

When you spoke,
I heard, after many days.
You are like one who stays with me
near an unlit fire,
who waits for me, with me,
through seas of restlessness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

you restore.

I revel not in a dying sun;
my eyes, my feet, lament not western seas,
nor will I sacrifice again the bird that sings,
but cleave my heart, my eyes,
to your paths over me.

To these,
one thing I know;
my heart, my feet,
my hands that grope,
my eyes grown dim,
the crops that fail,
the vine grown sweet.
One thing I've known,
the house I return to.

One lingers on the horizon,
fills the fields, the trees,
the words and the days.
Here is one thing, one hand,
one voice left
at the end of all things,
and your paths over me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

akin to pleasantness.

my words like sharpened stone,
drawn and formed from mercurial soil
to shatter violence.

No small river, your words
like eternity. Waters passing over,
over and over me.
(Had you abandoned me?)

Having no names
they take my stone-heart mail,
rend open the ceiling
to see the sun.

All I lament
this soil, beneath the sky.
My paths wend back for no one
into ignominy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

a cord of many strands.

As the waking stars slowly emerge,
in the middle of the night
or in sleep like valleys,
in the morning
when the light is sweet

we belong to this day, flowing seamlessly
from week to year, hour to hour
of daylight, inclining
to the words beneath.

Small fires flare, some nights;
vast storms ascend.
In our last rest (last breath),
sunrise, earth, and sky immense
flee from your presence.
Words on our lips
are standing on the path where eyes
find coastlines, never seen before.

We’ve silently remembered
for a long time, turning it over
and over, brighter still
in an ordinary conversation.

Earth and sky are waiting
as the waking stars slowly find light.
Rest, rest in this,
or stand on the precipice of wordlessness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the smallness of things.

“Good evening! Are you still awake?” The small face looked out into the night, listening carefully for her friend’s response. The night peered down on her for some time before glancing across the earth, noticing a more solemn face at a distance. This friend sat, ornately established, on an old stone roof in the centre of a city. He contemplated words in the silence.
“Yes, Wristwatch.” He spoke, after a pause: “I am here.”
The watch smiled. She was a delicate but plain piece of silverwork, not very costly, nor as old as the stone-tower clock. She had a pleasant nature and a bright face.
“A lovely evening!” she murmured a few times, half-mindful of her listener. “How is the city tonight?”
Stone-Tower Clock spoke his mind, although he was accustomed to silence. “My eyes are failing, Little Watch. There is little difference from night to night in the movement of the people; the year is growing warm, yet they all wear their coats and seem to be unmindful of the seasons.”
“A strange thing,” agreed the wristwatch. She was still looking out at the night, but she listened intently.

Being set with about an hours’ difference, the two conversants grew increasingly aware of the symmetry and difference of their movements. Wristwatch spent a while admiring the silence. “Aren’t the seconds fascinating? I think I’m overwhelmed by the idea.”
“Yes.” Stone-Tower Clock spoke in a strange voice, she thought. “I try not to think about it.”
“I rarely think; I prefer to observe.”
Wristwatch was thinking, her small motor buzzing almost without sound. “I love how we are so small, but we are caught up so inherently with something as large as time. Is this what it feels like to be swimming, or breathing?”
“Time is distant, Little Watch,” Stone-Tower Clock responded gently.
“I have always felt it to be close.”

“Think about what we are.”
“Clocks.” The watch felt curious, uncertain.
“You are silver and leather. I am embedded in these rocks. We are material things and the hours escape us.”
The thought was almost too foreign for Wristwatch to find a reply to. “Our hands are always moving. We are moving things, set to move in time.” She frowned a little as she thought.
“But can you hold time, or speak to it?” Although his eyes did not meet those of the night, he appeared very respectable in the clouds’ dappled shadows. “You are almost irreverent to the immensity, Little Watch.”
“So large we can hardly flee from it.”
“Are you made of movement? Are you time itself? Are you as old as I am?”
“I am not time.”
“Do we represent time?”
The wristwatch imagined what the night might perceive when it saw her. “Not very well.”
“And where is time, what is it like? Words are elusive as the thing itself. So you see,” said the city clock, “that some things are too immense for either you or me to ponder well.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

so much yet lies buried.

Ours are the conversations,
the pages and days of the world,
the shapes of silent music from an unknown
brightness of all forgotten or submerged
voices in a place that appears no longer.

"A voice speaks and you listen:
wondering at the form of what is foreign
or alike you listen, speak in reply and listen."
Why hope that there is something material,
something less like ghosts who slip
treacherously out of meeting
in the words we knit and reach for?

Languages fierce in their secrets intersect
or slice apart the dreams proffered
across gravity, space, time, motion.
The sky speaks and the vacant face
looking up to shapeless face
speaks, unheard and unknown.
So much unfolds to be told.
We stare together at the same spark
and then go home.

What if there were more to give
and a heart to empty into hands,
whatever that would mean,
regardless of how it were held?
Though you've rested in this place
I can barely breathe.

This is the gift that isn't yours to give,
the canvas that isn't yours to fill.

"We could still stand together.
I hope we could walk as if we weren't alone."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

to be, to be like.

I've heard sometimes that there are two ways of understanding and defining things. You can either describe what they are like or divide them from what they are not, and these are conflicting approaches. While the first way seems to evoke a primitive kind of cosmology, a tangible world where similitude, meaning and metaphor belong together, the other is linked more with Western rationality. The whole idea seems to lament the responsible necessity of dividing logic's desired Reality from the countless perspectives known by experience.

I'm not sure that this is right. The fullest and most resonant ideas seem to approach their subjects according to their shape and their substance simultaneously, working through the relationships and differences between both aspects of each thing as we see them to be. The universe is varied and yet it's real; it's not a homogenous field of feeling, intense yet irrelevant to the nothingness outside it. It's not a mass of shadows or echoes, and certainly not a cold shell of categories.

Logic stands strong, but never stands alone. The further you travel into understanding the layers upon layers of what the world is (independently of us, except for ourselves) and is significant as, this grows: feeling and meaning stand together in a highly natural way.

Knowledge like this can be surprising and intense. It can be familiar and ordinary. That's not the point; there's something deeply right about handling what defines and what comprises a thing in the same breath. Even if you won't and can't pin all things down like dead moths, they may not be elusive to reason.

Even when it feels like the sense of sight has rarely, if ever, existed for us.

Friday, August 26, 2011


As warmth rises in the afternoon
of what has been winter,
I stand and face the west.
It’s weeks now since I stood

and months, years long
since I spoke, but I’ve learnt songs
and I anticipate the morning,
morning from behind the hills of sunset.

To have words and not the heart
or to have the right heart and yet long
to be filled with the words
you spoke or speak.

To hold what is not apathy
but is numb to the voice
that spoke or speaks,
to stand, to move,

simply to be in a place
and understand the warmth
of the sun over us. Oh agitation
of beginnings, of costliness.

I stand facing the west
with eyes closed because colours are perceptions
and I ache for the real, because sunset
and sunrise are too deep a lake.

I can’t help but listen
to what is not silence,
join the songs from somewhere
in the past.

Friday, August 12, 2011


How could I hide the morning? Even my home I’ll shift
to find you, show you a field with treasure marked.

I felt your hands tremble. Friend; smallness adrift
among strangers, your brother, the oracle, the anarch.

How can I share a life that he will sift
like flour, how tempt you to embark
and give yourself to him, your life the first gift?

Let the steel storm of questions build to lift
and unveil my decision. Would I bury the first light’s spark?
Or choose to see that night, responding swift
to give myself to you, my life the first gift.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Are humans inherently selfish or relational? By looking at the way people live and at the way we create and compose, it seems your answer to this question defines your understanding of what absolutely everything is. Regardless of all the other questions we might have, if we could answer this one our cultures and lives would be utterly different.

I want to learn to love well in every relationship- even every acquaintance. I'm convinced that love is valuable; that people are genuinely valuable on so many levels at once. There's something in friendship beyond any reason that makes sense, yet it's the opposite of reasonless. It's hard to look into all that's behind that, but if it were a gift that's real and possible... It would be worth understanding, embracing.

Friday, June 17, 2011


How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it;

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ever, only, all for thee.

...and in other news, today I read a well-written thought from Oliver O'Donovan.
"We discover we are free when we are commanded by that authority which commands us according to the law of our being, disclosing the secrets of the heart. There is no freedom except when what we are, and do, corresponds to what has been given to us to be and to do. ‘Given to us’, because the law of our being does not assert itself spontaneously merely by virtue of our existing. We must receive ourselves from outside ourselves, addressed by a summons which evokes that correspondence of existence to being."

Friday, June 10, 2011


I was gently reminded that knowledge is worthless if it's not part of love. That understanding God is only possible through relationship with Him; that He has given us so many ways to actually know Him, and that these are perfect. In seeking wisdom or knowledge, we should also seek out which parts of those things God is leading us to value and follow- in light of the freedom He longs to bring, and the glory He is revealing to us, in us. Rather than knowing Him systematically (as our basis, I mean), we should seek His face- the Living God who's so thoroughly in touch with all the parts of our world- like in a conversation. Like many, many years of conversations, often and real.

Friday, June 3, 2011

day or night.

That moment when I closed my eyes
and was hidden,
when I stopped speaking
despite poetry,
despite friendship
and welcomed every breath as a stranger.

The breath when I yearned
and vowed to have no rest,
no rest
until the fire returned
(with little hope)
but hoped,

perhaps, not to be neglected
or like one desolate.

If the sky would wake and stir
and see the raging water,
there might be footsteps then.
Stirring of shoots
and the dry earth melting
with a shout
just beyond reach.

Monday, May 30, 2011

into the open.

I might be buried
with your pages folded neatly
in my mind.
I might be called to recite,
translate old ink.

The caverns of your essence hold
your shape;
your mind is here
and mine not far away.

A meeting,
moment of something true.
Something like proximity
or life,
or bright words striving with a void
outside our time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I've been feeling the strangeness, lately, of having my life centred around a relationship with God that is so clear to me- yet invisible and even ridiculous to most of the people I know. When faith is compelled by reasonable evidence, met by indescribable and obvious blessing, it's a beautiful thing... But I'm tired of my friends seemingly not being able to see these things at all, despite how actually important they are. I care a lot, and it can be confusing. I think that sometimes I try to see things from the perspective of others' experiences so much that I forget the simple reality I'm genuinely allowed to rest in.

If I surrender deeply to the things I can't dispute, how can taking them seriously be considered fundamentalist or naive? What am I expected to believe? The reality is intricate, not to be waved off with unnoticed double standards or considered undesirable. So when friends seem to engage with all these things and then dismiss them as an emotional, social or aesthetic choice- or misunderstand the nature of them, even when genuinely peering into them- it's just surreal. It hurts, it can be awkward and it's discouraging. Has something so large ever seemed so invisible?

God has revealed Himself to our generation in a way that asks faith and desire of us, even whilst giving us the grounds for it. I feel more and more that belief is not only about seeing things on the surface of reality and affirming them, but rather being willing to be stirred when God asks if we want anything to do with the kind of goodness that is His. Willing to be bound to this love, though it costs everything I thought was worth my desire. Willing to study, have my small perspectives challenged and have integrity with belief, and yet to surrender to what isn't comfortable. To acknowledge that we aren't being judged, but welcomed and desired, far beyond what we deserve. That however we imagine Him, God is desirable, faithful and good, not to be treated as worthless.

I need to remember the nature of the reality I walk in, even whilst trying to stay in touch with how others see it. To know that we are all subjects of this king, like it or not. To find the energy and the thankfulness to be lost not in what is imagined (the everyday, the mere undisputed), but in reality's fullness and real meaning. To be able to keep speaking about what I have found to be real, whether or not I know how to make that clear. For my heart to adore my God as king; for Him to be like the one I come home to, who is more real than anything else I find or am found in, because He is.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


For the marriage of simplicity and truth,
sing these songs.
Bid trust bring us all her gifts
till the allegory fades
and we, remade,
are caught into the sky, the breath we come from.
Rest, restored: one is here
who knows us, knows us well.

Soon we’ll speak exactly as we feel and think and are, yet be well. See how our faces glow with the grace of it. The hours flow by, word of simplicity like water.

We’ll hold onto them like a treasure. Soon we’ll be eye to eye, heart to heart, and held under the poetry that wakes us gently—so well, by the fruit of these trees. The words that grow slowly, stand strongly. The cold, blue sky, the light of full sun and clouds, these gumtrees and even the homes and roads will catch their breath at her splendour (coming up from the desert).

To the light that rises for us, piecing together what was scattered, that holds my face, that catches my eyes, that holds me; whose silence speaks quietness to us here—
I love you, we love you here. The depth of what we hold.

Not broken. Only sleeping, if you still create.

Whose wisdom, whose words arrived (in our hearts, in this song):
let it now be like it will be.
Never leave for a moment, in your promise.

Beautiful and perfect, the weaver of all things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

whan that the month of May is comen,

I haven't been posting properly for a while because of busyness, despite having planned (and promised!) to write up some of the things I've been learning in Biblical Studies this semester. No excuse needs to be made for lapses in blog posts, nor for my never having really been a 'blogger'. Still, I do feel that the long, sporadic writing here is symptomatic of the trouble I find in communicating things succinctly and relevantly. I'd love to deliberately work on that.

A while ago now, my friend Blake encouraged me to write poems with a word limit, for a month. I think it was about thirty words- and while that may not have made my poetry much better in quality or more outward-focused, I found it helpful! So I've decided to do the same this month, with prose. I'll try to give some super-quick thoughts, two hundred words or less, a bit more often. Whether or not this writing-space even has any readers matters little. It should be good practice! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Better I were without words
and learnt to speak again,
words that are found.

Let me, sometimes,
wander your wordless roads
and rest.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

to what I did and said.

"But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God.
Be not far from Me."

as if it were again.

For what was hidden:
not for fear of light
lest the pages wither,
but knowing how precious the words are
and how they were given;

for this I walk
and my heart touches the lines
and the ink, almost bursts with this.

With a wax seal,
with a hidden world.
For this I speak
and my face becomes pale
for this, for you.
My love unseen.
My mornings are shadows,
sincere one, to you;
the world shivers;

the early morning
and the soaking dew on grass,
my dress cold from it
and my shoes,

the bright sky,
the purity of eyes
so gently kept closed.

Or else the wound,
your eyes that drift
so deep,

perfume of sleep,
the murmur of its darkness.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

everything is here.

No wonder they love you,
no wonder they come to see us
in this light,
in the morning with dancing.
The scent of the gardens all still
and the voices that carry through dusk
on the paths of these hills.

Yours are the words that draw me,
yours is the grace that I praise.
Yours are my songs
and yours is the glance of my heart.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

because you answer me!

Yours I come,
frail in my love.
In my eyes
you are everything
when you call me.

I am blind,
inclined to other things.
You pursue me
and you have called,
your voice has called:

I love you, with all that is mine.
I will give all of my days to you.
Is there a light other than yours?
I could lose all my ways in you.

You who take nothing away,
whose song is deep and strong,
I stay, my face unmasked in you.

By your nearness I'm kept close
to stay here,
hoping to be unified in love for you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

my light.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that I will seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.

And now my head will be lifted up
above my enemies round about me;
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, "Seek my face".
My heart says to you,
"Your face, Lord, I seek".
Hide not your face from me.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

return, return, that we may look upon you.

When we asked our lecturer on Thursday which biblical translation she preferred for the poetic books, she simply replied that she reads them in Hebrew. This is more frustrating than amusing for me, since I don't read any Hebrew, but the surrounding discussion justified her answer well. Poetry is incredibly heightened in its awareness of every part of language as part of its meaning. The literal sense, the effect of sound and rhythm, the atmospheres emerging and the subtle implications of all the words' order, patterns and relationships enflesh the sub-literal parts of what is uniquely expressed.

A simple example of this is the gender of language, where for example strength and power in Psalm 21:13-
Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
are paired; one is feminine, one masculine. I wrote about parallelism earlier here, where the second line of each pair often reflects and expands on the first one. This is happily translatable, but the felt sense of each is still dampened in a non-gendered image.

Another difference between the languages is that Hebrew has a much more complicated case system than English. A lot of our words don't change, regardless of where they are in a sentence. We usually rely on sentence order to know what a word is doing or having done to it, but Hebrew poetry easily places important words early in a phrase. Many words also have very particular, clustered meanings that take a number of words to translate- so that a very simple line of just a few words, carefully placed together for meaning, usually becomes a long sentence in English.

That said, the translations are still wonderful, still the words of God in our hands. Even if the literary and devotional senses of poetic lyrics can't be split, the simple meaning of the words themselves is deeply true and fully relevant. This seems to be the way with God! There is always so much vastness, so much reality to be amazed by, yet His knowledge (in love) is already near. His goodness is overflowing for everyone who seeks Him, and He makes our worlds larger forever.

We looked at some beautiful things. In Song of Solomon 2:14, "Let me see your face" is stronger than it seems: let me doesn't mean 'I'd like to' so much as it is an imperative to the listener. The words for see and face are related as well, so that the lover is really telling his beloved to let him see her face, and in her face her visible self. This whole book is also fascinating when the titles are taken out of modern translations, so that it is difficult to know who is speaking at which point, who is listening, what they are doing and where; it changes often. This is true of many of the psalms and other poetry, and gives a sense of sounds and conversations- an entire atmosphere- being taken out real social or relational moments to be held in the pages. As a side note, ancient readers seem to have always read out loud, and ancient writers to have 'written out loud' as well, dictating to themselves. Many 'readers' were really a collective audience of listeners, and many of these poems would have been music. It gives the literature a different way of being.

The structure of thoughts within a psalm often tells a story on its own, as in Psalm 136:10-15. There, the firstborn of Egypt are killed; Israel is brought out from among them; the Red Sea is divided; Israel passes through it; Pharoah and his host are overthrown in the sea. The structure is a-b-c-b-a, fulfilling Israel's deliverance through the waters. The psalm begins with praise for God's goodness and love, then sees Him spreading out the earth on the water, then forming all the great lights named as rulers of their times. The deliverance centrepiece is followed with God's leading of His people out of the wilderness (which is like what is "formless and empty"), overthrowing kings and providing food for all people. The reflection is not so precise, verse by verse, as to feel contrived, but it is a strong declaration of who God is as the Lord and the Shepherd of the earth, of the whole cosmos, of the nations and of His people whom He loves. All through the song there is also repeated a response, "for his steadfast love endures forever", embodying this trustworthy, unchanging strength. The final line is beautiful after the first three and after the rest of the psalm:
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 80 does something similar, repeating its plea and adding to it.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock...
Restore us, O God,
let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Restore us, O God of hosts...
and finally again,
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts,
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Among these refrains is the story of Israel led like flock, and the stirring cry for restoration of this covenant:
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
and our enemies laugh among themselves.

The picture is repeated and articulated as a story, this time with a vine rather than a flock. In a few final verses this is told again, the travellers and animals that ravage the vineyard being now people who burn it and cut it down; and then, at this height, the Davidic promise is remembered (astounding that these worshippers were led to write about their God like this) and the covenant is renewed in heart and in blessing.
But let your hand rest upon the man of your right hand,
the son of man you have made strong for yourself!
Then we will never turn back from you...

In these ways the image is expanded, the scene embroidered, from line to line and from part to part. Song of Solomon 5:1 does this clearly, with a different sense:
I come to my garden, my sister, my bride,
I gather my myrrh with my spice,
I eat my honeycomb with my honey,
I drink my wine with my milk.

We talked as well about how the second part often particularises the thought it reflects. In Psalm 144:1,
Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle
the wider reality of a hand or a war is brought down to smaller details, the fingers and battles. It feels like the lesser things look after lesser things, the greater ones the greater; every detail is seen and known among the vast plans of God. Meaning is formed in the poetry, infusing the literal words.

The other thing I hadn't noticed was the idea of fixed pairs in the Bible- sons and daughters, the heavens and the earth, night and day- and how embedded these are in the idea of Hebrew songs. Some translators even consider the positioning of these pairs to determine which passages are prose and which, with pairs as the heart of their parallel lines, are poetry. Here is Psalm 19, which is exquisite when it's read with the ear of all this tradition.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, there are no words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and there is nothing hid from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern his errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

bütün şarkılarımız senin için.

In the first week of lectures and readings for 'Islam and Muslims in World History', we've talked mostly about the idea of a 'universal history'- explaining the whole human past according to one's own paradigms. Whether creationist, Enlightenment, Romantic or modern in basis, this has tended in European history to draw a picture of linear development towards 'civilisation'. Because of this, the history of other regions is often exoticised even when portrayed.

An alternative to this is a more 'global history', an attempt to portray the connections between cultures and societies in the history of the world from a wider range of perspectives. This doesn't just include telling the stories of the rest of the world, but also the potential to tell these in light of foreign memories of the events; even exploring foreign values to choose which stories should be told in the first place, and what meaning is drawn from those. Far from relativism, this opens out so much of the real meaning of history. Humanity is intricate on so many levels: there's always something new to look at and piece into our understanding of universal history- and of our personal histories- as they really are.

It's interesting to begin learning more about the connections between Arabic/Oriental and Hellenic/Roman/European cultures. The divide between East and West didn't always exist, but it is difficult to imagine the Middle Ages or the current time without it. There have been many exchanges between the two that are easy to forget, and our lecturer also made a point of the differences between the Arab and Muslim 'worlds'. At some points in history the two have been basically synonymous, and obviously there is significant mutual identity, but not all Arabic speakers have been Muslims, nor by any means all Islamic societies Arab/Eastern. Territorial and doctrinal conflicts in the Middle Ages, along with the Classical concept of the barbarian, led to the deep 'otherness' that the East has attained in the eyes of the West, but this is hardly inherent.

Apart from the diversity of Islamic societies- the distinctions between religion, society and culture seem to unify groups while also allowing for significant differences- the continuities and changes within a single culture are also underestimated. Islam has developed over time, and cultures in one country or empire can change dramatically even within a decade. To speak of 'Western culture' as somehow the same in antiquity, in the Middle Ages, a few centuries ago and the present- and then of all these together as somehow different to 'Eastern culture'- is a false construct. The lines of time and space are much more nuanced than archetypal history and literature have sometimes portrayed.

I still have a lot to learn, just by listening and watching for a while. I don't feel I've begun to understand the real heart of Arabic and Islamic cultures. Drawing closer to this, there are things I'll both appreciate and disagree with, but hopefully in a different way to the stereotypes I have at the moment! For now, even the methodology is interesting... It's nice to be an Arts student this year :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

when he fled.

"But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

"I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

"Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I've been learning a lot about rest recently. Part of that has come under learning to trust and to enjoy what God is doing, even though sometimes it takes so long to grow... Realising that He delights in us even in the process of grace. And with time, that's just the thing: I've been aware more than ever that really, really long periods of time can hold deep and coherent realities. I'm beginning to let my heart and thoughts settle more into those, to appreciate them and even desire them.

The thing that has struck me the most, though, is how we can rest in each other's gifts. The friends that God has placed around me are amazing me more all the time, and I so love serving Him with them. I love seeing people thrive in roles that I would have to work so hard in and with less results, and being able to step back and fill the places God has set aside for me. I so love being part of other people's lives- what a gift!

And I'm learning, in life and in friendship, that it's okay to move slowly. Not with apathy, with real desire and passion... Yet living in rest, knowing what is valuable and what is just too much. Relying on the grace and love of friends in places I need to come into just a bit at a time, places I really want to be in but which might take a while. People always surprise me! Whenever I need to rely on these friends in places that are hard (especially those that shouldn't be!) the welcome is real and easy, the opportunities are perfectly made, and I'm so thankful. When it feels like there's just too much to do or focus on, it's good to rest in the fact that it's God who is working around us, making everything happen and choosing what matters, so that we can simply join with His work within the resources we have. Running in God's strength, but also in only His expectations :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

what it is to reflect.

I've just started reading 'The Idea of Biblical Poetry' by James L. Kugel, which has been sitting on my bookshelf from the library for a few weeks. I've only read nine pages into the first chapter, but the thought is quite cool and I'd love to share a little part.

Kugel is writing about how often in biblical poetry, each line is made up of two parts- with a pause between. Instead of any set poetic metre or things such as rhyme or alliteration, this form is what the Hebrew ear expected from poetry. The theme of this book is the way that there is often a relationship between the two parts, where the second half will either repeat part of the first or reflect its ideas/voice, as in Psalm 94:
God of retribution, Lord / God of retribution, appear! //
Rise up, earth's ruler / give the arrogant their due //
How long shall the wicked, Lord / how long shall the wicked rejoice? //
They brag, speak arrogance / all the evil-doers do act haughtily //

This draws the imagery and the heart of what is written in a unique and expressive way, whether you notice it or not. Even the writers might hardly have noticed; it was culturally inherent.

Rather than simply mirroring or copying the first part in the second, though, there is something more significant held in the intuitive meaning of this form. Kugel rightly mentions how the listener would understand a build-up. The first part of the line is a truth in its own right, but it's also there to set the stage for something more: "A is so, and what's more, B is so."

I love this paragraph:
The medial pause all too often has been understood to represent a kind of "equals" sign. It is not; it is a pause, a comma, and the unity of the two parts should not be lost for their division. Indeed, its true character might be more graphically symbolised by a double arrow-
All your works praise you Lord <--> and your faithful ones bless you
for it is the dual nature of B both to come after A and thus add to it, often particularizing, defining, or expanding the meaning, and yet also to harken back to A and in an obvious way connect to it. One might say that B has both retrospective (looking back to A) and prospective (looking beyond it) qualities.

So amazing how God taught these people, within their culture, to know who He is within a context of worship. Even its poetic form is so aware of the goodness of God that is all through creation. There's a beautiful relationship between what is seen first, and what these things point to; things that are less become precious by holding His image. What comes now is caught up in what it will become later. Rather than discarding things or forgetting His servants, God delights in perfecting and glorifying. It's the nature of things :)

This feels like a glimpse of what it means for us as well to be part of the glory of God. Surrendering to this gives us His rest. His light over-illuminates ours, but in undeserved love His fire also points back to, always brightens, our own.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I've just read Deuteronomy, and one thing that has stood out to me in this story is how God has set so clearly in people's memories what He has already done... Yet for Israel, it's not just about looking to the past. It's a real hope, to be experienced in His faithfulness: to be strong and courageous even in what is unseen and what is ahead. People are given (and become part of) stories to understand, but each generation and each individual gets to live out the story of who God is.

This contrasts so much with our culture's ideas of security and hope. In listening to God for each step, not hiding things from Him, it's beautiful to know how vast the future is as something we could never weave together ourselves, but that He is delighting in holding for us. Everything is held. When we wait only on Him, time and its seasons are a beautiful thing.

wherever you.

When we’ve said too much,
let us meet silence
for a time,
deep river of moments
under the afternoon light.

You fill each day to the brim
according to the rhythms of your own house.
We could explore them forever,
understand them among friends.
I love each note,
however brief; I lose myself in the sound
and the uniqueness.

Time tells his stories more quietly
in the language of earth,
the words we will incline to
and by which we are remade.
Emptied of the old ways,
taught to be real;
we lack nothing,
delighted by what you have made.
We enjoy your house with silence in the afternoon,
contented and delighted by you
whose reality precedes us
and whose love upholds our breath.

Every morning rises with a new sun,
a light unseen before and newly made
yet of one kind
with the faithfulness we rise to each day.

In the evening
when stars appear,
then we are stirred
and we race over the sand in the cold breeze,
watching you,
arriving to find you in your promises.

Let our hearts be quiet before you again now
and watch. Then we will follow
wherever you go.
You have spoken already.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Every drop of the rain is a word about your kindness. Desiring such goodness to be held within, even when I'm within walls, hope cannot disappoint us.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I really want my thoughts and prayers to tend so much more naturally towards loving God and people. Not just genuinely caring, not just thinking of them, but lingering there easily, effortlessly. To run in circles around God's heart for people and His own goodness, rather than returning home in thought to the things I need His strength for.

To learn where His desire for us to surrender to Him more is still surrounded by His real delight in us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

and it's sweet to've come.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

you search me.

When I was woven at first
in the depths of the earth,
you sought me there; you knew
all the days hidden for me
and whether they'd see light.

If I now so uncertain, so small, flee back
into the darkness to be born,
if my mind flies through the earth
and the depths I saw,
you are still with me.

I love the light of your face.
We walk with open hearts, with you in eye.
Kindness is truly my companion.
Everything rains blessing here in you
on this road, which is yours only always.

So if I rise on the first light's wings
or if they chase me, meet me
on the other side of night and seas,
your words are as close as my own and my love,
to obey them; your strong hand guides me.

out of the depths.

We see so far into everything and
we are so small.

See the poet who writes Nature,
Beauty transcending.
Is he true to his vision at evening?
Who commends himself to Heaven’s harvest?

Or you whose eyes responsibly fail in your darkness,
whose pen leaps out of hunger into chaos:
hold it to the end then, if still you can,
for the sky's epitaph.

I can’t, I can’t; love unrequited.
Write of open fields,
of deserts
and mountains who fall to goodness
with strong songs;
kingdoms and hope everlasting,
trust beyond strength
and the worship
of those who are small
and so blessed.
These songs are older,
born of the wind.

The world itself will flee
until we shelter in the words that still remain.

Monday, January 17, 2011

the end of a breath.

We run with more trust to the words
that are always on your lips,
in this your love!
The feet of the noble are like those who come
to the home of a friend, invited.
They'll wait without dread
and trust with praise for kindness.
They'll wait for just a moment.

We are like the rain
sent on the earth,
touching the surface of these moments
and seeping, creeping into them.
The future is real in your eyes only;
there are dreams that are empty
and things that are too wonderful for me.

Our eyes find the substance of your love
in its place, as those who stand on a mountain
and search, and breathe, the sky itself;
those who know that you withhold

Why does grace pursue me?
I can't grasp for goodness
yet your love is always with me.

You who wake me from my dreams
and your loved ones from death,
your light is like the morning.
Your joy awakes our light vastly, deeply
over all these salted waters.
They surge and rage
even among hope,
but we are holding peace.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

(to the tune of) a dove on distant oaks.

"Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

"In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?

"I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

to love what is yours.

The gentleness of others, the softness of the afternoon
and their faithful joy in this deep light,
the rain of last night,

they call me to wear something new,
something simple,
apart from the incomparable loveliness;
your own goodness.

Something simple, more pure.
Let quality protect herself, then.
She'll surprise us as we finally arrive,
by persuasions that bring praise
on ourselves instead;

freely praise.
Everything woven into the new garment
that is your own love.

She responds through the ages to you
in a glory of delight,
and within her I feel it;
I come to you (and yours) more aware
of the flood of your hope for us
worked by your own hands,

Simpler too, I hope,
looking at your beauty,
since all these days are born
to such a humble light.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


"Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

to seek for.

Distant, small-lit skies
who glance at morning,
stirring all together.

Light ornate
but I've slept till now;
a little longer.

You touch these branches,
alighting like fire.
I reply with stillness now
under wakeful sunlight.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the sparrow's crown.

Under the heat of exile, sparrows hop
between the fallen branches and long grass

Where are the summer feasts,
music droning lavish to the glimmer of wine?
They are too far to hear
and hold no allure in the field.

If the roses at the gate, still strong at midday,
threaten to wilt,
pay no attention.
The garland that blooms when they will be buried
by the grass and wind
will rise gently in the mist
tomorrow morning;

will not fade as the light rises.
This is the pilgrimage of soil
and it's worth the wait.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

all existence.

Doubt and awe might thrive
together. Swiftly growing,

green in the earth
all wrestling
for bright daylight.
Stories limp profoundly
as they wade, towards
becoming new.

Friday, September 3, 2010

who bends with the remover.

Come, sit in the shade of this tree
whose branches reach
out through the sky;

come drink the sunlight
when spring fills the lakes
by the hillside,
creeks, the salt-oceans
and undammed rivers,
leaping dim and bright.

Know our eternity,
filled by the waves of infinity.
Might all impregnable.

Dark in the hour after midnight,
remember revolution.
We were for freedom,
oppressor to fall.

Hatred and dread,
the heartbeat of Paris
that pounded our aching as strong
as her cities and ancient woods:

blood seeped out
into cobblestones,
dark under moonless night.
We were revolution.

Then a gentler fortress,
Conscience besieged
within truth and grace.
Royalty I fear,
his palace I abhorred,
my siege I set.

Terror in the air,
death in the black spot
of flesh,

tear it;
scratch or cut it, bleeding, if you must
in the name of spring.
In the shadow of the dream of life.

Over the cobblestones,
who trod silently,
soul of the stars
who soar eagerly?
Crystalline light.

Purity whose life fills up all life;
the blow severe
that tore my insurrection.
Doubt and tears that drenched all the rivers
are rushed into forgetfulness by a new army,

Love who holds the light
upon winter and spring;
sunlight and starlight,
the waking and dreaming
of which you still breathe
every morning:

deep within memory
is the hot spark of flight.
Circling around it,
you spin here
at the edge of all life.

Friday, August 27, 2010

to the bee we walked by in the park.

Small honey bee:
From you I have no fear
this gold and windswept day,
content on your flower.

Yours would be the death
held in your sting,
for me but momentary.
May you live long.

Dying in defence, the instinct
that allowed your birth;
or else another kind of love.
The precious sun that shines:

Yours is the sweetness
you take and give back.
Happy to wander, from
flower to flower.

Monday, August 9, 2010


love is not love
Which alters when it alteration findes,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever fixed marke
That lookes on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandring barke,
Whose worths unknowne, although his higth be taken.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

the first breath.

If there were royal blood
anywhere existent in the world;
if it were sweeping your heart,
your hands,
the crown of your head,

and not of yourself
but by descent,
a gift both kind and noble—

would the air you breathe be different,
the bird song or the early sun
in waiting celebration?

Make way in your moments
for new ways to enter
among us.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

inscribed upon.

We are scattered people.
Careful relations of
mother, of uncle,
of father of fathers,
blown to the wind
by a cultural tractor plough.
Now the nameless wandering
over red dust.

It still gives birth
and the trees still grow.

We are treasures carried off,
piled together, heading to the north
among spoils from all shores.
Voices bound but not alloyed.
You the historian—
say what you will
about the people we remember.

There are names engraved
in stories you can hardly
let us then be claimed.
Brought to life

response to fire.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

to be alive.

Never could I fall from this reach,
fade from your light
or turn from this mercy that enamoured me!

Still my eyes gaze low,
tired or perplexed.
Still my mind turns dull:
to wait without running,
call without hoping,
desire without chasing,
try without feeling,

until you remind me
of love.
Love is pure in love, and even
half a shade below its light
is rot, the endless night
of faces turned.

You are enough
if I yearn for you,
more than enough.
Your love is truest
in a chance for love like this,
life like love.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

you have loved.

In the mornings your love sings.
In the cold we need your face.
In our weakness you are close, beautiful.
On the mountain your heart calls, resounds.
In the fortress you are our song.
In our sorrow you have loved, deeply.

Your glory is the word that reigns.
Your fire stands like a solid rock
that will never break.

You are our desire
and all that our thirst waits for.
You are faithful hope
and all that we live here for.
By your mercy we are yours,
our God.

You have come nearby to us:
held and formed us by your light,
raised us from the earth and spoken here.
As our lives leap bright you dance with us.
In our dying you are poured out.
In our summer you are strong, shining.

I will awaken.

Tonight a water mains burst in our front yard. It threw water twenty metres high for an hour or so. So wasteful and waiting, so long, for someone to turn the water off in our street... Yet awesome. Some of my family hurried for showers.

There's a flash for this photo; the real thing was monochrome dark, cold, huge and loud. The moon and streetlights caught glimmers in a heavy outbreaking of water as high as the gum-trees, where you had to look right up when beneath.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

hear it.

In love with the mythical,
we found the mystical.
As we remember,
particulars of culture
have always filled

our words regarding

Under the heavens,
catch this world
in vapour webs.
Matter and form are all song,
silver notes buried
in the depths of bass;

else, we befriend the solid souls
of rivers, of dense hills
swollen under our feet,
the breeze
that sweeps over them both,
glistening in autumn.

Trees will clap their hands.
Lift your hearts up
for a great choir:
rich with soil, echoing
voices that all bow
near the roads to that mountain.

Though myths feast under crowns
of bright surrender
at this table,
there is one note,
one love,
a single friendship,

that we must never empty
into many.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

men at forty.

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors of rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father's tie there in secret,

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

(by Donald Justice)

Friday, June 4, 2010

evening by the lake.

It's but three years
since we sat 'round
those yellow desks, mosaic’d
in Pollock’s genius.
All precise, that tangle
of moment and fire
split and spilt—
memory sent
to its burrows
as staple-guns war.

(When will he rise
on the white-primed sea?)

Hand guides mine, with the brush
in mine. As I paint lately,
my hand is that hand.
Children of aether, or children of earth...
There is developer
all through my clothes.

We have witnessed Memory.

Autobiographical persistence
wanes away.
Understand these hundreds of layers
of worthier strokes,

lost in someone else’s worlds;
images dart in and out
of these feast-hall windows,

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

and we'd rejoice.

The Best Of It
Kay Ryan

However carved up
or pared down we get,
we keep on making
the best of it as though
it doesn't matter that
our acre's down to
a square foot. As
though our garden
could be one bean
and we'd rejoice if
it flourishes, as
though one bean
could nourish us.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

which cannot be measured.

"Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice." "Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making."
Proverbs 16:8 & 11

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Nis min sele swige, ne ic sylfa hlud
ymb dryhtsele; unc dryhten scop
siþ ætsomne. Ic eom swiftra þonne he,
þragum strengra, he þreohtigra.
Hwilum ic me reste; he sceal rinnan forð.
Ic him in wunige a þenden ic lifge;
gif wit unc gedælað, me bið deað witod.

My house is not silent, nor I myself loud
about the splendid-hall. The lord shaped us two
to venture together. I am swifter than he,
at times stronger, and he more enduring.
Sometimes I rest myself; he must run forth.
I dwell in him ever while I may live;
if we two are parted from each other, death is appointed for me.

It's lovely :) The typed OE text is from Mitchell & Robinson.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

car trip.

This afternoon I wrote my first proper short story since high school :) I like it, so I'm sharing it! My English Curriculum teacher has explained that we shouldn't ask students to do anything we can't do ourselves, and that we also must bring to the classroom a personal culture of reading and writing if we hope to develop one in our kids.

So, enjoy: it's quite stream of imaginative consciousness, and all in fun. The first part is the stimulus we had to use, written by Mal Peet. (I didn't match the style, though I did try to use a children's literature voice.)

That summer, we drove up to the cabin in the hills. My parents liked to ‘get away from it all’. What they meant by ‘all’ was stuff my brother couldn’t do without, like broadband and TV and pizza delivery.
On the fourth day we went ‘exploring’. It wasn’t exactly a Burke and Wills type project, seeing as how we had four-wheel drive, satnav, a map, mobile phones and an Esky the size of a coffin. Plus a whingey twelve year old with his head wired to an iPod.
After an hour or so Dad said “Let’s give this a whirl”, and turned off the road on to a downward-winding dirt track. Eventually it levelled out and we found ourselves in a valley. It was hotter down there. Mum cranked the air-con up. The track ran alongside a dry creek; off among the scrub I glimpsed sag-roofed buildings and the ribs of old fences.
“What is this place?”
“Dunno”, Mum said. “There’s nothing on the map.”
And then we came to a stretch of crooked, bleached-white fence, and standing behind it was a horse with a boy on its back. They were completely motionless, even though flies clouded the horse’s head. The boy had hair like black snakes, and wore only a frayed pair of cut-offs. We were past them in a second. I looked back, but they were lost in our dust. No one said anything, which I thought was kind of weird.
I dozed off, I don’t know for how long. I woke up when the Toyota lurched and the first thing I saw was the same rickety fence and the boy on the horse. His dark eyes met mine as we passed.
“Are we lost?” I said. “We’re going round in circles.”
“No, we’re not”, Mum said.
“Yes we are”, I said. “We passed that kid on the horse a while ago.”
Dad squinted at me in the mirror. “What kid?”
Mum turned and looked at me. “What horse?” she said.

I looked at Mum’s face for a moment, and when I saw how serious she was, I turned to the window to stare out at the wild, dry landscape. It didn’t make sense—but in this surreal, unfamiliar place, I think that affected me in a different way to how it might have at home. Everything was slower, as if Mystery were a character who belonged here just as much as I did. Mum and Dad were right: there was no one there. Not only the horse and the dark boy were missing, but as far as I could see behind us, there was also no fence.

“Um. I was only joking.” Of course I didn’t want to explain. Dad was always going on about the rational approach, and how superstitious, sentimental types create dreams out of nothing and try to make others live their lives accordingly. If I were going mad, I didn’t want to argue it with him—as if the horse boy were something I’d chosen, or wanted to see. But I was absolutely sure, clear as anything else.

“No you weren’t!” Daniel replied loudly, not even taking off his headphones. “You were serious!”

“Was not.” I couldn’t think of anyone in the world more annoying. I wished he’d stayed at home, like he’d wanted to. I wished he played on his awful computer all day, instead of ruining the whole trip. “As if you know what I’m thinking!”

Before he could answer, Mum turned around again, and Dad pulled over to the side of the road. “‘Bout time for morning tea”, he said, and everyone agreed. Dad was good at that—cheering people up, making Daniel stop fighting. I didn’t like the conversation anyway, so I bit my tongue and let it all slide.

I was confused. Who was the dark boy? Why would he disappear? Why would I see him? I knew people could see things when they went crazy, especially old people on medicine—like my great-auntie Melissa who used to talk about feeding the cats who weren’t really in the room at all. Mum said she knew they weren’t real, but that it was hard for her, because she could still really see them. I guess you have to believe what you see.

Maybe he was real. Looking out at the dried grass, and the wide, wide sky and horizons, I could almost certainly believe in ghosts. They sort of made sense here. This whole place felt strange and unknown: felt just like ghosts. What if he were some dead child from an unknown past, in the empty houses near the creek—and now haunting us? Why? I tried to tell myself it was ridiculous.

Clicking my seatbelt back on, I slammed the door closed. Mum handed me my apple juice in the yellow plastic picnic cup. “Don’t spill it in the car!” Dad said. “Be enough trouble just cleaning the outside.” He was smiling, and I could tell he didn’t mind. It wasn’t often that we got to go on a holiday like this. I decided to try to enjoy it as much as I could; after all, I was fifteen, and not immature and boring like Daniel.

Even though the satnav said we weren’t lost at all, the track seemed long. It was all repetitive. Nothing really changed. The same sort of trees, the same grass and sheep, sometimes cows. A little while further, more cows, and the sun staying high and hot in the sky. I put my pillow next to the window and leaned my head against it.

I think I must have started dreaming, then, but it felt real. Everything felt just exactly the same, as if the world had gone into my mind without changing at all. The dried out grass, the broken down fences, the same hills rising to both sides of us near ponds; all the sheep, and tall eucalypts spotted over the landscape. Just when we’d passed a paddock with a few cows further in the distance, the car stopped, so I opened the door.

When I got out, I saw the boy. He was galloping towards us on the road, still a long way off, but coming fast. My heart leaped. He was chasing us. I wanted to know who he was—but I knew that I couldn’t meet him. I started to run.

I ran, with the galloping sound growing louder, louder behind me. The fences were all still the same, repeated over and over on a long dirt track that I couldn’t see the end of. The sun was very warm: so bright and eerily red, in the dusty sky. The horse boy had almost caught up to me. I could hardly breathe: my legs were like lead, but I was running as fast as a greyhound. He passed me.

I stopped still, breathed hard with relief. He mustn’t have seen me. The curious figure sped away to the darkening sky—still glowing, but it looked heavy, as if it might storm—and I knew that I needed to chase him. To find out who he was, and why he was following us. Everything was dark by now. All the grass was replaced by a deep orange dust that glowed under the moon, the flashes of lightning and the bright Milky Way, peering through wherever the clouds parted. Large drops of water hit the ground, and my skin; I started to run again.

It must have been at this point that I realised I was dreaming. The boy on the horse was out of sight, but there were others running with me. Jenny from school, and the twins from down the road, and a whole hoard of animals on foot and birds flying—calling out, screeching and shouting as we went. Even though it felt completely mad, all moving so fast, it felt like we ran for a very long time. Somehow I forgot I was dreaming, and realised how much I was enjoying the chase: if it weren’t for that nagging, lingering wonder, dark inside me like the night. Who was he? Where was he?

I knew where he was: he’d gone into the bush. I sped to the front of the group, past the dingoes at the front, and turned off the track onto the fine sand, soaking under my bare feet. “Into the bush! He’s in the bush!”

They all called after: “In the bush!” Their voices a cacophony, under the sweet, white light of the sky and its opening clouds, growing louder and louder as we ran through the wet trees and leaves to a clearing. It looked like a billabong (I’d never seen one before, so I wasn’t sure), wide and stagnant under the light of the full moon. Everything was silent, and I was alone again.

There were definitely ghosts here. I threw stones over the water, making them bounce, skip, then splash, down into the murkiness at the bottom.

I jumped in to swim, hoping there was nothing there lurking, watching me in the depths. It seemed that there might probably be, but I loved the squishy mud under my feet. I loved the sweet, warm air that filled my senses when I closed my eyes, letting it sweep around my wet face. Good thing I’d practised my swimming in Mitchell and Daisy’s new pool. Hundreds of fish wandered around me; I opened my eyes to find that they were leading me, in a long, trailing school, towards the other side. A shadow stood dim beside an immensely tall tree.

I reached the bank, and everything was darker. The moon must have gone behind thick clouds: only the stars were left. A voice whispered to me, and I knew that this must be the beginning of my adventure. “Lily?”

“Yes”, I replied. It was very solemn, all serious and grown-up. I sat down next to the person, who wasn’t nearly so tall as I’d thought. He was a platypus, with sleek, deep brown fur. I didn’t want to seem too high: he was very old, I thought, and held too much authority and wisdom.

“It’s so good to meet you”, he whispered again, with a sort of richness; he really meant it, I knew. “I can tell you this: that the horse boy would very much like to meet you, and is waiting for you at the Great Mountain.”

“I haven’t seen a mountain,” I replied—and then realised I shouldn’t have spoken so loudly. “Where is it?” I added softly. “Where did everyone go?”

“I don’t know much”, he said gravely. “Not even the wombat knows, and I must confess I’m only a messenger. But if you go back into the lake at midnight, and follow the moon on the surface, you will certainly find out.” He nodded slightly—kindly—and then darted away into the water.

The sun began to glow against the horizon, almost immediately; then, there was only one bright star left, cold in the grey sky. All sorts of birds were singing, and the kookaburra was cheery, joyful as anything, up in the early morning gum tree that seemed to reach to the ceiling of the world. I supposed there was nothing to do but wait for the day to pass—so I sat down, to watch it begin.

The blush of the heavens in the east was beautiful enough to look at for hours. Even for Daniel, I thought. I wondered where he was, and realised that he must have run off with the others.

About half an hour later, a sound caught my ear. A puppy came swimming to me on the lake, and came out panting, smiling, wanting to play. She looked like Felicity, the brown and white dog we used to have at our other house—the house with the really big back-yard, and the ice cream truck that came every single week. She was smaller, younger, though. I patted her wet head, and laughed as she ran off yapping, pretending to howl at the newly born sun.

We set off running again, all refreshed from the night’s swim; we welcomed the brightening morning, while all the birds were still singing with full lungs and happy hearts. The dog wound her path into a field full of soft, dry grass, which was not nearly so prickly to run through as it looked to be.

To our right, in the north, were piles of great red rocks, as if giants’ children had piled them all up for a game. I couldn’t see the sky beyond them, except through a few gaps in the structure. Their origins were impossible to guess at. They looked like something a clever animal might make for a shelter, or maybe a sort of landmark left as a sign by some ancient race whose great footprints were long covered over, and eroded. At the same time I noticed that there was a strange, almost inaudible singing, coming out from the bushland behind us.

When the puppy suddenly stopped ahead, her wagging tail moved the grass so that I could see where she was. She’d stopped by another pile of stones, almost only pebbles: this time only ten of them, just sitting there together on the ground. I wanted to know what they meant, much more than I wanted to understand the boulders. This miniature mountain belonged not to some distant time, with only its remnants in the present, but to someone still alive. Someone close. Someone, or something, who still had things to say. It was all very strange, exciting, under the jubilant sun perched once again as high as it had been while we were driving. Even brighter and much clearer, now, I thought.

The breeze came strong from the opal blue sky. The singing grew louder, and I could hear clap-sticks.

All at once the bushland was in flames, growing quickly higher, and all full of smoke, threatening to crawl into the grass where I was standing. The puppy barked softly, and scampered off too quickly for me to see where she’d gone to. From behind me came a boy, a few years younger than I—and he wasn’t concerned about the fire. His skin was streaked in white earthy paint, and he was pointing at the pile of stones.

“D’you want to know what they are?”

“Shouldn’t we run?”

“It won’t catch us. It’s a safe fire. We make them so the bush grows, and the seeds fall open, and everything comes back to life: like the morning of the trees and the earth.”

“Wow.” We stood and watched the scene for at least five minutes, those lapping red flames in a wall that ran on and on through the bushland, but didn’t come near us; only grew taller, brighter, over the sky. “What do they mean?” I’d remembered the rocks, thirsty with curiosity.

“I don’t know what they mean. Just what they are.” I’d never thought there was a difference: I hadn’t really thought about it at all. “I put them there to say to the big rocks, ‘You belong to me, just as much as you belong to the great men who heaved you into the earth, in the time outside the time.’”


“Because they’re here.”

“Why’d you want to say that?”

“Yesterday, I asked Auntie if the rocks could think or hear. She said they could understand the earth and the hearts of people, whether they belong to the sky, or flee from it into the caves.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I put them here this morning, when I came into the grass. But we have to go up to the mountain now.”

I knew he meant the Great Mountain, and my heart jumped inside.

There was nothing else to say. So with the bright heat of the fire and the shining depth of the ocean of sky bearing in on us, we started to run once again. We ran until we reached one of the giants’ mounds. “This isn’t the mountain”, he said quietly, looking up high to the top. “But I’ve always wanted to climb it.”

“Are we allowed?”

“When we walk at the top, you will tip-toe.”

We climbed up. It was easier than we thought, because the stones were uneven, and there were places to clasp onto, to put our feet. We felt strong in the smoky afternoon, under the wheeling of thousands of birds over the grasslands. We explored the dark hollows inside, where the sunlight crept through in strange columns; then we wound our way up to the top, watched the sun set, the stars coming out one by one. They were gliding slowly over the sky, precisely where the birds had been before. There were rivers on the ground in the far distance, shining and winding like earthworms that wriggle when you dig them up and hold them on your hands.

Night fell quickly. As the glow from the fire died down into ashes, the terrain took on a blanket of surreal black shadows, each merging into the inky flow of the others, and softly reflecting the lights held high up in the sky.

“You’d better go down with the birds”, the boy spoke into the silence, after a while. “You’ve got to reach the waters.” I’d half forgotten about the mountain quest, and about that riding horse boy.

“Will you stay here?”

“Only till morning.” We sat for some time longer, and then he hollered an unfamiliar call: singing out and out, so that a frightful, flapping shape appeared in front of us, landing on one of the giants’ rocks. “It’s safe. Worry about some things, but never the birds.”

“O.k.” I looked at him to make sure, and then jumped half a metre down. I landed on the warm and feathery back. The boy smiled large, and waved. I snuggled into the plumage, each feather larger than myself, and held on as we plunged and soared far, far under all the constellations. There were also two planets out. I flew over all the landscape I’d seen while it was still day. When it was time to come down, I slid down the great tail feathers, into the layer of sweet-smelling gum leaves that littered the earth in the clearing. There was the water, and there on its surface lay the moon. There also was the platypus.

It all seemed very familiar; the night that had passed came back to me, like a gentle flood. “Are you ready?” The platypus seemed happy to speak more loudly, now. His voice was funny, hardly human, but really endearing in some sort of way; I could tell what he was saying without any trouble.

“You’re coming?”

“If you like. I have nothing to do tonight, and I might say I fancy a bit of a swim.” I was pleased. Instead of a cold, mysterious journey, I would take the adventure with a friend. We both waded in, and I was surprised at how well he could keep up with me.

It wasn’t long at all until we reached the reflection of the moon. We treaded water there, all the white light rippling around us. The platypus seemed to be deep in thought, and then decided—“Keep swimming on, I think, till we find your mountain”. There was nothing else for it. We swam on, my loose hair wet and cold about my face, and came to a place that changed to be as narrow as a creek. It was deeper than anything I could get to the bottom of. We swam on and on, through the same trees, and the same darkness, as if that night were all that ever had existed on the earth. As if the morning, and the boy, and the afternoon, the light and the fire, all fell back into the dream—like a clearing mist—and gave way to the truth of darkness. I knew that like all nights, it had to come soon again to morning; but while we swam on, there was nothing but the silvery light on black water.

The dawn came slowly, and this time silently. The sun brought his face up through the distant leaves, and we saw that we had nearly reached the end of the stream. We began to clamber onto the slippery rocks, and then out onto the bank.

“We ought to follow the fence, then”, my small friend then suggested. There, deeper into the scrub and trees, was the white, half-rotten fence, leading into the invisible distance. He had to be right. “You’ll have to carry me, if it’s not too much trouble. Not too good on my feet these days, you see.”

“Of course.”

We followed the fence all morning. As time went on, I began to hear voices, and everything was muddled. Mum’s voice. What was it? I began to wake up, my eyes still closed, with the sun on my face and arms. I was glad we’d had to put on sunscreen: the light was sharp, as well as hot.

“Just try to enjoy it, o.k.?” Dad sounded frustrated, but still excited. Nothing was to be taken seriously on a holiday, and I loved it.

“So boring!” Daniel fumed. “I hate this trip, stupid cows and stupid fence, there’s, like—nothing here.”

“Not really,” I murmured, half to myself.

“That’s enough.” Mum hated fights. “We’re not going back yet”.

Dad opened his window to let the hot breeze come streaming into the cold air inside. We came soon to the end of the long fence, and he steered the car off the track, onto even rougher terrain.

This adventure was going to be good.