Last Words – Anna aged 7

Anna – Last Words


Today I say goodbye

too soon, dear ones, I know;

too few, the years we’ve shared

so brief, the lessons learned.

But things beyond our reach

outside our grasp

have come to make this day my last;

this day I pass from you and all the love you’ve shared in these short, few, seven, years.


I feel you standing over me

and know your longing vigil at my side –

as anguished Pietas beside my linen tomb –

is soon to end.

Beyond these machines and their beeping, breathing, beats;

my heart already pulses to another sound –

to which their rhythmic prods aren’t keeping time –

It draws me ever closer to a light just like your love

but only so much brighter

shining from above beyond your sad and watching eyes





Let yourself be drawn

Chris Ahrends

Let your self be drawn by simpler things,

your heart and its desires.

Let your doing be the action

your being shares.

And your action will be

the sacred morning mist

of a dawning day,

and your presence as water

in a parched land.


In the Silence



In France a few years ago – this monastery – alone and in silence

In the Silence

Chris Ahrends

In silence.

In the waiting silence.

In the daily waiting silence.

Attentive and with inner smile.

Mindfully he sits.

As though

his life

depends on it

because it does.

The silence – waiting watching non-judgemental smiling silence.

It works on him.

Stripping away social-self.

Gently dethroning ego-self.

Opening the way for true-self’s yearning emergence.

In silence he sits and

watches the new begin

It always does.

Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer

Chris Ahrends

I enter in

the darkened empty chapel

alone and prayerful

incense lingering

in memory of

those who made

their earlier communion here.

I touch water

sign the cross and bend a knee

to the red glow that beacons

and beckons I see

the Holy One

is host here.

I see candles

faithfully flickering

at saint’s sandalled feet

and add my lowly votive too


as faithful have before…

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you; Blessed are you amongst women; Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus; Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death…

I find my place

in darkened corner

and start my prayers alone amongst the ancient saints

A single voice

in symphony with the myriad

who’ve done this

and so much more before…

Each day

I add my trivial vigil

and enter in

Each time


by the holy place within,

where always,

I am met by grace.

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Christmas 2013




born a child, we made him a god

a Jew, we made him a Christian

a Palestinian, we made him European  

brown, we made him white

a servant, we made him a king

a revolutionary, we made him a saint

a law-breaker, we made him a law-maker

a friend of prostitutes, we turn away

inclusive, we made him exclusive

the human face of God, we turned him into art

bringer of a new way, we made it a church

renewer of faith, we made a religion

lover of people, we kill in his name

living the truth, we make it ours

giver of hope, we want certainty

come to make all things whole, we make them ours

born as a child, we made him a god

in our own image

and call it Christmas

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New Dawn



Alone away from home

he sees more clearly

than before that


the pale light shining

is a ray of

a new day dawning


for him, who has found in a field,

a treasure, and sells all to

buy the field


in which to sow the silence

that transforms him,

and makes all things new.


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Ode to Rachel


Eighteen today,
a day old,
she died.

Memories so vivid, yet
faraway, her
memorial day

Tubes intruding,
restraining the life, she
was leaving.

Worked all night throughout
our vigil, her visit
so fleeting.

When it was over
Nothing to say but pray
for grace to comfort those
distraught by our loss.

After the service
I lifted alone,
the little white box

Took her away with
part of me that died too
that day.

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Mosotho Boy


His face in my lens; it
could have been
his eyes; I’m seen and
taken in, to
smouldering pools of
mountain night, that
with a glance, cast me
askance, saying
What are you doing here?

He’s ten or could have been
a Mosotho boy,
of any age, whose
stage is set long before,
by lore of birth, which
makes me take
his glance to heart, and say
What are you looking for?

I can’t explain
my captured sense, the
thoughts evoked;
Our stories so diverse, a
different universe,
yet in him I
find someone
who touches me and says
What are you searching for?

So much he has to bring
to what he knows
his role must be up here, no
doubting thought,
he’ll be a man
just as he ought,
as happens in this place;
But in his case,
an enigmatic face says,
I want more than this.

Then he smiles,
white light explodes,
his face aglow, and
then I know
we’re no strangers
standing here
the boy and me in unity, our
communal humanity
enabling us to say,
What do you want from me?

I want, I think, his innocence,
to live by clan and custom
held firm at home, a boy
who roams the hills
a life modernity steals, from
the likes of me;
He wants, he thinks, my freedom,
my right to choose, to lose
his many ties; my
access to the roads, that
lead from here;
And so we search
each other’s worlds,
the other’s mind, and
knowing what it is that
we shall find, say,
We need each other.

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Daylong Struggle to Pray – a second run at it!

1. Morning Prayers:


Candle lit

in catholic arc of stone,

Sitting still,

attuned for daily grace,

I find instead

a taunting separate self

singing the tuneless hymns

of my slumbering morning-prayers.


2. Midday Intercession:


Gathering thoughts at noon,

in midday sun

I seek the light to pray

through clouded mind

for all the broken world;

My calloused heart

so hard to hear

my racing thoughts

so hard to clear

during my struggling noonday-prayers.


3. Evening Prayers:


I come again at end of day;

Prayerwheel’s turned another cog;

My evening rays,

another’s morning mist;

my hours worked,

another’s sleep;

my letting go,

another’s to keep;

And in my dimming evening prayer,

I look at last

beyond the dark and hovering cloud

and find once more

grace enough

to start again.


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Lagoon Meditation

Blackberry 012



Here at the lagoon – the end of a beautiful day – I sit on the stoep of the old visserman’s huis at sunset watching the receding tide – thinking about the times we’ve been here – the years spent sitting here – the countless people who’ve passed this way before – and especially those, who like Pete have loved this lagoon and now see it from the other side.

Here at the lagoon, I sit feeling small and insignificant yet connected to it all – and accept afresh that our lives have their own ebb and flow – that nothing stays the same – that everything flows and answers to a higher lunar power.

Here at the lagoon, I sit in the evening breeze and acknowledge that the wind blows when and where it likes – and that our lives are like the flowers of the droë veld – we blossom one day and then the wind blows over us and we are gone.

Here, in the chilly southern breeze I sit and remember Pete who has sailed that Great Wind  – and I feel deeply my many vulnerabilities – that we are but sojourners – wanderers along the shores of life – as impermanent as were our fore-bearers like Mrs Ples a million years ago and others since, who walked places like this in search of life.

Here in the evening light, I sit and watch the lagoon – and I’m reminded of the words of Antonio Machado who sought to teach us that we all are wanderers on the road, and that the road is made by walking. “By walking”, he said, “one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again.”

And so, sitting here – at the lagoon – watching, remembering and thinking, I’m grateful for the wonder of life as it parades past me – for the path I am walking that will never be trod again – I’m moved by the life of all who like Pete loved their path and walked it so fully – I’m nurtured by the sense of connectedness to all that is around me – and I’m challenged by the vulnerability, the impermanence of life that keeps me humble and watching and thinking and remembering.

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Easter Appeal

Gerard Manley Hopkins - let Him easter in us


I came across a stanza by Gerard Manley Hopkins, in which he uses Easter as a verb.

“Let him easter in us; be a dayspring to the dimness in us, be a crimson-cresseted east”

I’ve used his remarkable words in this poem – and credit him accordingly.


Easter Appeal


Come starspray of hope

balm for my blackened past

my baptism of fire

through which

unclad and unprepared

I sought a saving way.


Come wellspring of faith

spirit for my weary memories

my lost desert ways

through which

unconscious and unknowing

I searched the windswept dunes.


Come dawnwing of love

light for my lonely tomb

my longed locked lodgings

in which

unwelcome and unfulfilled

I made my failed acts of love.


Come ancient Easter-Man

Come easter in me

beyond the fires

the desert dunes

the long locked tombs

and failed acts of love…

be a dayspring to the dimness in me,

a crimson-cresseted east

arising from my darkness!


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Bringing the Whole of Me


bringing the whole of me to sit in silence in the old stone chapel where many have sat before candles burning in their presence here at dawn I feel the hard work of carrying the load of duplicity as I do coming into this place with all the pieces of me reflecting the light and shadow the signs and acts of hope and failure of living between spirit and flesh all one but not aligned and so sowing differently and reaping consequently reflecting the parts of me manifest in longing and giving in loving and leaving in breathing and dying like the air and earth that I am with my harvests of wholeness and nets of emptiness all of which I feel as I sit here with it all alone except I’m not as I hear a deeper wisdom calling so gently its sound is but a breath so quiet is it it could be missed saying that I should be careful not to create or perpetuate within me a land of exile from which parts of me cannot return and receive a warm welcome home and as I listen I awaken to that deeper me within me where my deepest-self that true and sacred me dwells and holds all the unaligned parts of me together and welcomes home all the exiles I know so well especially the prodigal one no stranger to me but who remains a wild running teen searching for fulfilment his wanderings causing such disruption as well as the older son that part of me who never leaves but whose trying-so-hard-to-please and catch-an-eye causes such fatigue and self-doubt both these without judgment the deepest-me holds and welcomes home here and now this morning in this age-old chapel of light to be still in the holy darkness with the candles and saints and prayers to wait as the silence moulds me into one as it has done in countless souls through time and will do in mine

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Ode to Boyhood

Hot summer days on friendship beach,

Sandy sunny belonging

in unquestioned brotherhood.


Brown bodies on sweaty bunks,

sheets of discovery

uncovering unbounded life.


Comrades on mountain peaks,

euphoric blistered steps

deepening tribal togetherness.


Cycles pedaling city streets,

ridden rhythmic life

of unconscious sleepfulness.


Ah, that boyhood stretch,

Sun-kissed, wild-blessed


in which we learned of life;

that love takes and love gives

and how we love, is how we live.

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No dinner harmony tonight

pic by alex grey


Looking forward to dinner with friends…

who had sailed the seas and

swam with dolphins;

Listening to tales

of inspiring worlds and

pondering the shamans’ cryptic words,

“Man is the Dream of the Dolphins”

But we did not speak of these things…


So I sought her feelings on more

(as she had once before) about

“the mauve carpet of stars

they rode during the long nightwatch”

And how in the ocean’s depth they saw

“memories of another shore

once strolled as people of the morn.”

But we could not talk of these things…


We spoke instead of passing fads,

that, each passing day

are washed away

and found no words to share…

the lonely seas we’ve sailed

and others long desired,

of undocking and of planing

of adventures and of failing

and of that ancient cold conniving

South Wind

each some tide must ride.


Through that night I came to know

and to understand

our central human

compass bearing:

“Lost in thought”

We’re lost in thought;

listening without hearing

living while we’re sleeping

sailing but never leaving

in friendships lost at sea…

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High in the Malutis


High in the Malutis

I see clinging crops on

craggy mountain contours

surrounding thatched huts

and wonder,

whose homes are they?


I see the young boy not yet ten

plastic bottles

and gumboots singing

at dusk

dispatched to

fetch well-water

for the night and family

as have his brothers fetched

for years before.


I see a blanket-wrapped man

his dark brow still

darkened at dawn

driving six oxen already

carting rocks

that will one day become

his wall, his home, his kraal

his all.


I see the bustling women walking, bright

patterned dresses swinging

umbrellas holding off

the sun and later, the

coming storm

on their way home

and ask myself,

where are they going and

will they get there in time

and for what?


I see the distant shepherd

herding scattered flocks on

well-worn paths

whip cracking

dust spraying

and wonder how

he keeps his eye

on so many

and against what

does he have to watch

that they may safely graze?


I see two shy toddlers

teetering near their hut

naked but

for unbuttoned jerseys

holed and old and

as dusty as

the gnarled tree

under which their wire-carts

lie waiting for them

to ride away

one day.


I see the tough teenage boys

sticks in hand

drifting to the village

keen dark eyes watching

through grey balaclavas

pulled down

as hard as they

believe they are when

prowling shabby shabeens

where one night

they’ll fight

to show they’re

becoming men.


I see the weary grandmother

sitting outside her door, her

thread-bare blanket a

garment of service of

years of toil

etched in each clear line of

her face, the story of

how, with her own hands, her

husband gone, she

raised each child and brick to

build their lives and house

all three rooms proud,

and I’m overwhelmed by

her power.


I see an elder approaching,

white-bearded and bent,

the retired catechist, I’m told,

his wide-rimmed hat

pulled low, his

well-trod gate

now slow

after years of blessings

and walking and talking and teaching

a faith he still holds dear,

and, as we pass,

his hands held open and up,

he reverently greets

“Dumela N’tate”,

and I too,

am blessed.


This, and so much more,

everyone everything so real

in the Malutis I get it, I feel;

And wonder as I see

another life another deal,

who would I be?

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The Night’s Quiet Hour

In the night’s quiet hour

I awake.

Sleep escapes

my tired head of

thoughts that lead to nowhere;

Now here now there,

no urgent paths to tread.

Just faces, places, tasks and stories

raising their many coloured heads,

their textured memories,

their wordless threads:

* A sister enduring treatment with concern,

* A friend who mourns his sibling’s early death,

* Another deep on grief’s grim lonely path,

* A friend I couldn’t meet today, from afar,

* An email I await and long to read

* Another to which I’ve promised to respond,

* A client confessing a deep held need,

* A world that hates, that loves, is caught in greed;

* The dreams for which the lonely long.


All these I try to hold,

To mull, like the precious stones they are

these thoughts around me, that

surround me

In the dark;

of God’s mysterious love

that’s awake always

with me, thank God

in the night’s quiet hours.

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Remain Open

Remain open and vulnerable to

God, he pleads…

How do I?

Surrender the small-self,

all tied up in images,

the need for assurance

and, am I loveable?


Allow that first-self

unseen, unknown, unfolding

God’s DNA in each of us

to be present

and be present to it,

he suggests….

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I saw them today
living with such anguish
My heart tore
listening to their story

Described how hard it is,
Making and keeping
those around them –
Relationships of any depth

Pushing and pulling
Counter-weighing the forces
of those who seek, they said
to break them

Such frailty amidst
the anger; ah, that pain that burns,
Feeding the wounds
that inflame our souls

They came to say today
they’re so uncertain
this way or that or what to do
there seems no path

They shared their suffering today
jagged edges cutting rough
through their longing childhood
its time denied; for which they long

So hard to share, they say
pain gagging in their throats;
Swallowing hard the choking words
that describe such aching hearts

Living on the edge, they wonder;
Is it wrong, a home of the condemned?
Or a space to make their own
to find themselves, afar but free?

We talked an hour today
agreed there’s no one way;
Except to listen and seek to hold
with open hands what’s in the room

Yes we said, to meet again,
next week, maybe many, as
journeying home means journeying down through loss,
the grief, the pain; no promises, but in trust

They came to see me today
Such anguish; made me think of mine
not so far away; another edge, my ledge
From which consciousness brought me home…


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