If I stay Absolutely Still, The shards of my exploded life Will not Rattle, Grind against each other, Fall from my internal hands And shatter further Perhaps even now, In this sorry state, They are fixable, Can be pieced together To Before. But only if I stay still, absolutely. Do not disturb them With Thought, or Action, Or poke with an Emotion. If I absolutely stay still. Don’t even Look at the Broken, Maybe Ignoring, avoiding Will glue and reset And I will seem again To be Whole and Hold - Although, who could trust such a vessel? If only Grief had not Caught me up unawares, Dashed Me Against that brute wall of silence Between the Here and the Hereafter But if I stay still, Absolutely, And yet mending is not possible. And instead there is only carrying the pieces What then? How then? When then? Live my life? copyright Tina Towey 2021
You have to remember, Life was pretty dull and dusty. Grimed in resentment towards The Powers That Be - The sand-scoured soldiers Bitter and burnt Far from home and fed up With our surly compliance. The priests and pharisees, They were worse. Disdainful and despising Us - the workaday Jews. So following Jesus, One of us but with an Edge, New angles on right and wrong, On should and could, It was a blast. A lot better than working anyway. Laying it on thick with the parents, “Exploring my faith… Holy Man …” Dad swallowed it - pleased. Mum gave me one of her Looks.. Because I was young They insisted I come home to sleep each night. This curfew - A frequent missing of signs and wonders Of parables and discussions Making do with hand me down participation. But I got a first-hand share too. Out in the sudden evening chill He’d sometimes sit by our makeshift fire Talking And listening. He was interesting and interested. He remembered what you told him. He cared. He was The most Alive person I’d ever met And great company. That’s what kept me coming back. Roaring with laughter On the road home At the way he’d flummoxed The tight-lipped and tight-minded The furious frustrateds With his wit and arguments. It wasn’t hard to find him each time. Somebody would tell somebody, would tell somebody He was on the move And we’d track him Following the clues and signs - A woman smiling, singing softly, A man skipping blithe as a child Declaring himself a miracle, An empty village Dustkick in the distance Showing where everyone had gone To see him. When it stopped Being a lark, Being exciting - Rumours that the Great and Good Were running out of patience And he was running out of time And Dad started begging me To stop following And Mum started following me following him - I knew I’d keep going To the end. I was there at Golgotha Afraid, silent, appalled. I never saw the tomb Closed, open or empty. I never saw him risen as others claimed. I didn’t go preaching. I didn’t stay around. In truth Mum found me at Golgotha And led me home by the hand, A small child again. Dad held his peace Never even a hint of “I told you so”. I blundered through the days, Dull of wits, mood, feelings. Then the rumours came Of the body gone, Risen or robbed, Depending on the source. Hope sparked. There came a day, Our Rabbi and his cronies Scoffing at two resurrection preachers Come to town. One of them I recognised; His words faltering, But his faith firm. I went and stood beside him, Said I believed their testimony. Rabbi and rabble full of scorn Demanding evidence. Mocking my inarticulate “I just know” And then a calloused hand on my shoulder, Dad, Quiet and reasonable, Asking them where was their proof That it wasn’t true. A bit of blustering And head shaking; Then they left. A small knot of Questioners Staying to hear more. Dad squeezed my shoulder, Nodded. I nodded back. I was so proud of him, But I didn’t say it. We never did Say much. He went home. I stayed on to listen more. But when the two left, I didn’t go with them. There was no need. But there was a need to stay. It just seemed wrong To leave Mum and Dad To leave their love. I stayed home. I tried to be A good son And later A good husband, A good father. I never really went Anywhere else again. But I did follow Down all the days I still followed. Copyright Tina Towey 2020
John 8:3-11 Sick with fear A stone already in my thoat Waiting for the real ones To follow the hurled accusations. Those flint faces, With pitiless pebble eyes, Fists clenched around cold certainty And hard religion. But then a holy man - I think he must have been, I don’t know - Writing on the ground. What did he write? How would I know? I’m just a woman; I can’t read! And it wasn’t what he wrote, But what he said. Stopped them. Silenced them. Sent them away. Everyone knew what I’d done. No idea what they had been up to, But clearly No Good! Even now when I see one of them They won’t look me in the eye. It’s just what he said After they’d gone. No. Told me to do - stop doing. That I couldn’t, can’t ignore. Was it, Is it, Easy To stop Being with the one you love? The one you’ve broken God’s law for. To fight the ache To bear it A life sentence of Lonely Instead of that death sentence? I am not Good. I try. I fail. But whatever else I do wrong, I will keep doing this Hardest Thing Right; Not reach for, look for My lover’s touch again. I can’t read or write, But those words, All of them, They’re written in me. And even I can understand. You can be found guilty - And I definitely was - And yet Be pardoned, Not punished. There’s this word I do know, Though I can’t read or write it. Mercy. copyright Tina Towey 2020
Lk 22:45 Only someone who never lost someone would be surprised that we were sleeping for grief. It's the shock. The revelation, realisation that Death is coming, will not be blustered or argued aside, will not be fought off. Death of hopes, love, dreams, Life. Anyone who has known these, or seen them waiting just up ahead, has been tempted to pull the covers over their head; sleep through the dull, numb nightmare and push back the waking moment of 'Gone'. So once we finally understood what we had been told, before and before and before. Once we could no longer block out that understanding, it was a wave of Misery that hit us Cold and Brute and sucking back draining us of all but Dread. Were we sorry that we fell asleep? Stupid question! Could we have stayed awake? I don't think so. Who has been asked to pray, wanted to pray for someone beloved, and been unable for the very reason that they love so much? Grief possesses, paralyses silences and shuts down. I could wish for you that you'd never have to understand this, but that would be to wish you less than human, to never have loved fathoms drowning deep. It wasn't that we didn't care enough, but because we cared too much that we were sleeping for grief. copyright Tina Towey 2020
Let Quiet Come And torment with calm Peace busyness Into Stop. Let eyelids close and looks go inward To accept the dark Nothing. Let mind closet And snap to the clasps On all bright apish ideas and notions So the New may Possess the yawning space Between boredom and birth. Let limbs loose to lassitude and liquid That movement and activity are stilled. Let all of me unravel. Let me be. Let me be still. Let me be still and know. Until. copyright Tina Towey 2020
My father Jacob had fought an angel
And had a limp to prove it.
We, his sons by Leah,
A pack of puppies scrabbling for his attention.
Cuffed with affection and irritation by turns
But then there was Joseph.
If not for the dreams
None of it would have happened.
A spoilt brat
Asking what they meant, when he knew full well!
Who couldn’t interpret them –
“Better than you”.
Poking us with his visions of greatness.
Goading us to react.
And that coat!
That was the other thing.
The rest of us out with the stinking stock all day.
No special coats for us.
And that little sneak,
Rewarded for his shyness and spying
With a coat fit for a prince.
The unfairness of it
Boiling inside us.
Merciless as the sun that awful day,
The will to kill.
But I, reason winning out,
And my heart for our father,
Saved him (I thought)
Put him alive in the well, not dead in the ground.
Teach him a lesson.
Give my brothers time to calm,
And me time to rescue him later.
When they told me he was sold
I stopped breathing
Thought I would die on the spot.
Already haunted by his face as we’d lowered him down,
I couldn’t, wouldn’t imagine
The fear, the fright, the begging tears.
And now, only now, the others considering
“What will we tell the old man?”
So the next plan was mine too,
And the burden mine.
To bear the bloodied coat,
Like a murdered baby,
Back to Jacob’s arms.
All the years then following,
Watching him wounded now within,
A heart limp to partner his sore hip.
It was worse that he would not blame us.
But we, we avoided each other’s eyes and company
Which he mistook for grief.
Young Benjamin consoled him somewhat,
A new favourite – petted, praised and overprotected.
But no-one dared resent him.
Once was enough.
And besides, he was just a lad,
Not a Joseph.
And there was no coat.
When famine came, we felt responsible.
I still loved my brothers,
But I thought we deserved to die.
Not Benjamin though, or father, or our families.
So with begging bowls to Egypt to see the Great Man.
All well enough until… that missing cup.
I knew it was a plant.
The look on Benjamin’s face
Echo of another’s years before.
Stammering, begging, pleading to take his place.
The world tilted.
The Great Man wept words.
Impossible! Joseph alive!
For a sickening space,
I conjured an executioner.
Retribution for my indefensible failure to defend him.
Reconciliation, not revenge,
Reunion, not recrimination.
Our father also, too beyond joy
To question how and why.
Forgiven then, but never forgotten,
On my side at least.
On Joseph’s – never a sign of anything but love.
Once or twice, I tried a halting word
Bumping into the memory when we were alone,
But he would gently guide me round it,
A friend to a blind man.
And so I have come to see
If not for all the wrongs of yesterday,
We would not have lived to today.
I tell my children this –
Whatever you have done or failed to do, there is always hope.
And another thing I see.
Joseph was right all along.
He was and is a better man than any of us,
Copyright Tina Towey 2020
For A.M. In imagination I open the doors of your wardrobe, Slide the hangers to and fro across the years. There’s the pink and silver twist dress at – what? – sixteen With accessories of a home perm and poise. The peach perfect chiffon ballgown In which you danced – Wild! A flitting-flirty butterfly, No longer sensible sister But sparky student Reimagined from the pattern You inherited. The moss green softest suede hooded jacket Coveted and envied Worn for the ferry voyage to Ireland Towing along Anthony and I As attached as its toggles. And armouring you through A Belfast baptism into Teaching. A wedding dress With sleeves to trumpet joy And a wind-whipped veil And a going away outfit Petite and signature pink Hoisted fairy-light aloft On Best Man, Stephen’s shoulder As easily as a toddler, Carried in triumph To the Just Married Jalopy And off and away to married life. Then flowered maternity And uniforms for the Guiding ranks Sunday smart to conduct the children’s choir And in between and threading through Dresses for daughters Alterations for occasions – Weddings, parties, proms and parades. And in between The serviceable, the practical Joggers and gilets Fleeces and flats. But then – oh glory! The baseball cap and bib And the official Tee Of the Limerick Marathon. All these I see Now My big sister, Anne Marie, Stepping out with your signature walk Along a catwalk of memory Standing sure in each and every Design and creation and choice A lifelong retrospective collection And always, you, yourself Wearing the best thing you ever made - Your own life. copyright Tina Towey 2020
At the party,
My very good friend seeing me
Cold-clad in inadequate cobwebflimsy,
A cardigan of Brightest Yellow
The colour of Glory.
But then the revellers onlooking,
I grew self-conscious Conspicuous,
Afraid I did not merit
Attention and admiring;
That I would be
Found Out and Wanting.
So I took it off.
Swapped it for another
In shade of crumbled mortar,
The colour of Drab,
And blended relieved-regretful
Into the walls.
This I dreamt.
I see them still,
Mortar and Yellow,
The Drab and the Glory.
The invisible safe,
The vulnerable seen.
I swallow hard.
I put on
copyright Tina Towey 2020
Foundering not found in faith
Doubts told and tolled
In beads of the Rosary
Clinging to the coattails of borrowed belief
Not touching the hem of his garment
We are the Thomases of Here and Now
Wishing we could be ‘happy’ –
“Not see and yet believe” –
But deep-down Knowing
We long for solid reassurance
Of love eternal
Of resurrection and another life beyond
Something, someone we can see and touch
Standing before us.
A fire set running on our trail
That blazes but does not destroy
Before which we can stand
In barefoot awe
A beacon for our searching eyes
We poor pilgrims on the twisting path
To real conviction and confidence.
So we admit our No
We cannot accept
The word of the faithful faith-filled
That all is and shall be well.
Locked as we are in our doubt-filled shuttered rooms
Got to see
Had the chance to touch
And we with our gritted-teeth creed
Our repeat until remembrance
Substitutes for Certainty
We confess our need
To see, to touch, to hold
The proof of truth in person
copyright Tina Towey 2020
This is an old one that seemed apt to reblog
I blamed myself;
That tepid message,
“Have nothing to do
With that man.
I had a dream about him.”
Sent with a servant,
Who mocked the beads of sweat
Upon my forehead,
With his averted gaze
And servile bow.
Why would my husband take any notice?
How could he,
In front of his men
And those blackmailing Jewish priests?
But how could I
Put into words
The horror of that dream?
At being fixed in a gaze
Of pure love?
When he came in,
I saw from the look on his face,
That my feeble plea had failed;
One more futile attempt
To influence him,
Against the posturing,
Drawing dripping hands
Across his eyes,
A sigh beyond all weariness,
Answered by my sob.
He met my eyes then,
And in his
Down which he had fallen
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