Monday, November 28, 2011

walking to school

Armidale, June, 1997.

I, the frightened child,
stand gazing at the frosty mist
escaping from my mouth with every breath.

Though it hangs in space,
suddenly substantial,
I feel my self to be
the nothingness of vapour.
My breath makes a mark where I do not,
then fades.

I am unable to move forward or backward,
but instead I freeze also,
like the grass, the leaves,
the air around me.

I glance up the hill through the tunnel of trees.
I glance back down the hill, toward home,
my eyes sliding sideways, secretly,
not wanting to admit
I don't want to move in either direction.

The street is very quiet,
only the occasional bird wastes warmth on calling out
to a friend,
or a worm.

I am alone on the path.

'How long can I stay here?' I wonder,
lost in a vacuum of time between home and school.

The path obviously doesn't contain much interest in itself,
but I am tantalised, hypnotised, by the possibility
of sitting,
not stirring,
freezing into the background,
until the school day is over,
and I've run out of reasons not to go home.

Monday, November 21, 2011

emotional werewolf

What the hell am I doing?

I, a person who's always used routine and busyness to create the illusion for myself that my life has meaning and value: I am about to embark on a year of no routine, and worse, intentional lack of busyness.

How will I not break apart, when these props of my value disappear?

The stress of the prospect alone is causing restless nights full of violent dreams, and the return of sobbing, 2am breakdowns, which I'd mercifully had a solid two months peace from. Apparently the idea itself is enough to transform me back into my emotional werewolf self... What will the reality do?

What the hell am I doing??!!!

I, a person who's always struggled to express in writing what I can apparently describe eloquently in speech am dedicating a year not to talking, but to writing; trying to nail the jelly to the wall and then, worse, expose it to public criticism!

How am I going to survive spending every day kicking an empty can around the concrete back-yard of my disappointing incompetence?

The stress of the prospect alone has increased my already troublesome persuasion for procrastination, as usual making an impossible Everest of the 'simple' tasks of cleaning and packing my possessions. How on earth will I complete anything next year if I can't move house now?

As I lay here crying, provoked by these questions into a storm of anxious, desperate tears, I apologised to you for being sad. It felt rude, ungrateful, improper and selfish...

I guess that paints you as some sort of narky, unloving, 1950s male stereotype who is demanding I keep my chin up and stop crying, frustrated by my lack of appreciation for all the work you do out of the house on my behalf...

Nothing of that portrait is true...

But as my cheek grew clammy from summer humidity plus puddle-o-tears, and my inner self grew hairier and hairier and began to howl at the moon, you kept insisting, "since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life".*

But that reassuring attempt to tame my inner werewolf with an understanding whisper only made it worse again! It is true then that I'm selfish, ungrateful, improper and rude to bemoan my misunderstanding, mistrust, misgivings, because I'm apparently precious and honoured, but stubbornly, illogically refuse to accept it!

And so we reach a familiar impasse, You and I...

All the historical certainty of your past actions: all your promised future actions and their empirically predictable strong likelihood may satisfy the anxieties and demands of modernist rationality, but those historical certainties and statistical probabilities fail to staunch the gaping wound of my more post-modern existential angst. My psycho-spiritual frailties are unfortunately exacerbated by my po-mo suspicion of power, grand promises and happy endings... It's not buying what you're selling...

And all the words you could muster, all the promises, declarations, commands, instructions, reassurances and encouragements bounce off the perverse psychological armour my damaged brain has forged for itself, apparently in an attempt to protect me from the slings and arrows of the possibility of failed love... My armour will not allow me to accept these words of kindness and restoration...

In brief, these words of yours, for now, don't stop me crying.

I need hugs, sunrises and prayer for that...

I needed to explain all this to you, distance myself from it, observe it, analyse it, hand it to you, so that I could calm down and re-focus...

And that's really helped.

I needed to see again the fantasy and the reality, so I could have a hope of separating the two...

Thankyou for providing for my needs, for space, time and capacity to pray. Please help me to remember all the other times too: the hugs, the answers, and your promise that the sun will always rise and banish the moon.

And please help me walk with you into whatever valley, shadow-of-death or otherwise, re-casting myself now no longer in the role of werewolf, but instead of recalcitrant, stupid, small, shorn, knock-kneed, wolf-vulnerable sheep...


*Isaiah 43:4

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I wanna go home!
I want to sit on my parent's couch
with a cup of tea
and have a long conversation with my sister.

I want to make dinner with Mum,
say grace with Dad,
and float around in our ool with no p in it,
possibly attempting to joke drown my brother.

I want to feel the sense of comfortable assurance
home brings.
There's somewhere I belong,
even when other places, other spaces fail me.

But you've asked me to be, commanded me to be,
made me,
an alien, a stranger,
a wanderer here.

You've called me to have a relentless desire
for the quiet rest of my true home.

But it's hard to live in unfulfilled desire.
Not just because it feels so unreal most of the time,
but because of my crippling doubt
that even there, there's really no place for me.

It'll be heaven with no Jo in it.
Home, but not mine.

I fear I'll never find rest
from my anxious, desert wanderings...

Monday, November 14, 2011


Distance has ever been our fickle frenemy.
She beckons us seductively
with promise of exotic islands,
rolling deserts, ancient architecture and sparkling seas.
An escape, a fresh perspective,
a new horizon.

But then she destroys,
with estrangement,
poor communication,
isolation and despair.

We discover to our surprise
and sometimes shame,
that distance lurks
across the whole four feet
of a double bed.

She loiters awkwardly between
strangers at a church supper,
and hovers between friend/not-friends/maybe-more-than/friends?

Distance arrives in unexpected places,
and stretches our comfort to its limit.

But our distance from you...
She's another enemy altogether!

Why are you so far from saving me?
Why do you not come near to rescue me?

Why must we be separated
by the echoing corners of empty rooves?
By the resounding silence in closed cathedrals?
Wandering alone in the cool of the morning...

Come close.
Cover distance,
extinguish her,
conquer her.
Draw us to yourself.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

resurrection storm

I offer to you my words of meditation on your greatness, my thankfulness for your rescue from the eye of the storm.


New washed, the earth lies silent.
New born, she shines,
still glistening from the womb.

Raw dawn spreads lambent stillness,
waking world waits life,
stirring from the tomb.


Your words.
Psalm 107:25-30 New International Version (with small changes for rhythm)

For He spoke and stirred up a tempest,
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens
and sank back down to the depths.
In their peril, their courage melted away.

The reeled and staggered like drunkards,
they were at their wits' end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.

He stilled the storm with a whisper,
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when the storm grew calm,
and He guided them to their desired haven.

Monday, November 7, 2011

this morning I

I know sharing the prayer below subverts the conclusion of my angst.

But that subversion is the reason I'm sharing it with you in front of everybody.

So many missionaries I know talk about spiritual warfare. And it's said the best thing to do is to drag all the evil out in the open, into the light of day, where we can see it for what it is and laugh at it.

Not that laughter is exactly the response I'm looking for at the moment!

But I'm dragging the evil out in the open for you to examine and destroy...

This morning I don't know why to put clothes on.
What's the point of hanging clothes of this ugly carcass?
I could wear a clown suit and it would be more appropriate!
Oh look. I am wearing a clown suit! My taste is horrible...

This morning I don't know why to eat breakfast.
Why feed this stupid body?
What's the point of chew, chew, chew, swallow
when the food turns to cardboard in my mouth,
and all I'm doing is keeping myself alive
so I'll be able to have another mouthful of cardboard.

This morning I don't know why to leave the house.
What's the point of leaving the house,
when I know I'm just going to come back again.
When the reason I leave is stupid.
All that's going to happen is stupid conversations,
misunderstandings and disappointment.

This morning I don't know why to drive safely.
What's the point of driving safely? Apart from not killing all the other people...
No one else looks where they're going.
Look! That woman's eating cereal and texting!
It'd be much better to go screamingly fast, spin around the corners and get somewhere.
Far away.

This morning I don't know why I should ever write anything again.
I express myself so poorly!
But that's all my ideas deserve.
They're just the derivative ravings of a madwoman.

This morning I don't know why.

Friday, November 4, 2011

at the bus stop

Just thought you might like my public transport composition.

After all, you did mention that you like new songs (Psalm 96:1), and I guess this could be sung. You also didn't say what they have to be about, soooooo, yeah... I think its three stanzas of ionic major quaternary dimeter of masculine rhyming couplets... I think!

Also, thanks heaps for beautiful afternoon for wandering through the parks, and also for all the help this morning/week/month with my work. Especially thankyou for all those other people who prayed, what a blessing. Love you!

Bearded men in bright pink glasses.
Slutty girls with pumpkin arses
poking out of short, white skirts.
Slender boys in slender shirts.

Glamour girls in floral dresses,
strappy sandals, 'careless' tresses.
City boys sport gelled up hair,
homeless men sport ragged stares.

All these people at my stop,
heading out to drink and shop,
cast a sidelong glance at me?!
Checking out my pedigree??!!

How shocking!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Ruba'iyat

Come, wash your feet, let all your sinful stains,
be washed by other's tears, by other's pains.
Warm, wounded hands will pour from heaven's bowl
sweet drops of blood which fall, soft-kissing rains.


Reclining at rich feast in heavenly rest,
gold skies resound with song, "Our God be blessed!
Though Adam's bite turned ashen in the mouth,
our Saviour's bread turns bitter taste to best!"