In August I was honoured to take part in a five-day series of theme talks on “Theology in the Flesh”. You can find all the theme talks here:
Hucklow Theme Talks
The 2019 talks were quite a diverse and riveting collection, ranging from the scars of race and the social self; to the limitations of language and direct spiritual transcendence; to forging a connection between materialism and spirituality; and to reclaiming fat and living with radical self-love. Lastly, my talk was how to live authentically, through the body, in a time of drastic climate crisis, as modelled in the gospel of Mark. I know that sounds a bit dry, but as you’ll hear, the audience and I got really into it together. I hope you do too! (note: the first 15 minutes are opening prayer and children’s story, at around 15:00 the talk itself begins)
With these auspicious lines, the poet commences
The earliest poem of the Australopithecus anamensis.
Or were you first? Did those acuminated senses
Place the objects of the world within your bars,
And did that mouth of yours grunt out an ode
To grubs and berries, stones and stars?
Should your genus, like mine, count out the metered time,
Then surely I am far from the second.
Still I praise your face,
Sister, mother, with estimations grossly reckoned.
Show my your brow of yearning bold!
And for all that you have yet to make –
Spear-tip, fire, blacktop, rake –
I’d extoll your rugged feet,
And every setting where these miracles meet the ground,
Without pretenses. By words unsaid, by years and menses,
You and I are bound. And there are no fences,
At last, where we sing together in the round.
Find nature, then be in it.
Go to a body of placid water.
Notice who is in charge of the planets and the earth.
Not you, is it?
Create a body of placid water.
Notice who stirs the planets and the earth.
Feel your heartbeat.
Return to it.
Return to it.
The Baal Shem Tov
One might, in turn, believe
and not believe in reincarnation,
in order to say, “next life, I’d do it happier,”
and then embrace this one.
Boss, we’ve still got that deal.
Give me bread
Give me life
I don’t deserve life
in Your eyes.
I’ll give life
to those who don’t deserve life
in my eyes.
I’ll make You holy.
I’ll say Your name,
and it will mean something
when I say it.
Boss, I know it’s tempting,
but deliver me
from every manner of vengeance.
‘Cos we’ve still got that deal.
And when I’m gone – soon – only You
and the deal
will be left
on the table.
What keeps time?
a circle, pulled through its circumference
a jar, beneath some papers, in a cupboard
a dinosaur, reshaped and reappraised
rings on a tree
waves, microwaves, and train goodbyes
the folded hands of a pensioner
and the regular occasional ha
of air rising to meet air.
But where, tell me, does all this kept time
earn its freedom?
Is it waiting
in the gap between the bells,
or is it already taken
from the stretched skin
beating one, two, three, four?
May God’s home be in the arms of the homeless and the refugee,
may God’s ceremony be justice,
may God’s tribute be surrender.
May God’s righteousness be the poor, confirmed,
and may God’s river be the very stream
where she is taking her old grey coat, right now.