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“... but I am all ears to Poetry and Prophecy, the wild song that rides upon the Wind and on the Light, an ode to Love and Wonder sung to the One and only Word that ever truly took on shape.”

Copyright © Kristin Jack ISBN-13: 978-99963-520-1-0 Printed by Hawaii Printing House Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Graphic Design: Alistair Craig, www.nzgodzone.com Photo Credits Cover: Alistair Craig, pages: 7, 10, 13, 31, 56 and back cover Montage source photos: Stock.xchng: Pages:15, 18, 22-23, 27-28, 35, 37, 43, 47, 49, 53, 58-59, 64, 66-67 Public domain: 24-25, 44 , 63, 71 Page 9, Cameron Hansen Page 50-51, Cameron Hansen Page 55, Fridel Ammann Page 68, Cameron Hansen


Poetry (n) – words written or spoken, arranged to have pleasing, rhythmic or attractive qualities.

Prophecy (n) – words written or spoken to foretell God’s intent for the future, or to reveal God’s displeasure with the present.


index 4 6 8 11 12 14 15 16 17 19 20 22 24 26 28 29 30 32 33 34 35 36 38 39

Index On Seeing Royalty In The Streets At Five You Laughed And Danced That Dawn Will Come Mr.Rich Man (Okhna, Samdech…) Kompot Sunset Acts Of Beauty, Acts Of Humanity Wounded Healer Ask Me Where I Was Poised Between Two Choices My Sister Party Poem No Sparrow Falls A Poem For Albert’s Funeral Intimacy My Words Fall In The Gap This Is What It Means Beauty A Body Out Of Shape Christmasanity Truth Is More Than Theory When It’s Wrapped In A Man Religious Druggery Another Funeral Poem Theology

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40 41 42 43 44 46 48 49 50 52 54 56 57 58 60 61 62 64 65 66 68 69 70

So Hard To Follow After Some Prayer, A Poem. A Poem For Myself Two Edged Sword The Sound Of Worlds Colliding When The Stars Come Tumbling Down… Make Me Only God Is One Wretchedly Beautiful Patriotism Is A Weasel-Word That Day Will Come War Is For Children You Knew My Name Holy Ground Loneliness What I Could Become The Hardest Thing One Body, One Grain Pre-Dawn Poem Broken Edges Like A Sparrow Fallen Stalled In Bombay I’m Flowing To You

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foreword

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or the last 16 years I and my family have been living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1994 we moved here and into a riverside shanty settlement, responding to a sense of call that told us we’d never really know what real life and real faith was till we’d gone and lived among those for whom each day (and each meal) was a gift. Our 16 years here have been an incredible gift. Here we have learned about hope and despair, about love and fear, about mercy and cruelty, about justice and injustice, in ways we could not have learned back in easy going, affluent New Zealand. I am incredibly grateful for all I have experienced here. We have worked alongside many friends in this place, labouring to rebuild community after the devastation of the Pol Pot years and the Vietnamese occupation that followed. Together we have been involved in health and development initiatives among the very poor, and campaigns for justice among the most marginalised. It has been a wonderful vantage point from which to see the best and the worst of humanity, of history - and of myself. Now I prepare to leave, knowing that I take with me far more than I have given.

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As we come to the end of our season here, I have tried to record in this collection something of the impact this magical place and beautiful people have had on me. I have tried to capture something of the heartbreak, the anger, the joy and hope that have engulfed and sometimes overwhelmed me. What do I hope to achieve by writing down these words and images, and bundling them together in a book? A sense of closure I suppose. A way of marking the end of this powerful chapter in our life. And what do I hope for you, now that I have been audacious enough to give you these words? I hope that they will help you and I both, in some small way, keep pushing forward on our quest to become more and more human, more and more who we were created to be from the very beginning. For me – someone who started out as an atheist, and ended up as believer - as far as I can see, this is what it means to follow the Human One, the one who became fully human, the ‘Son of Man’, love incarnate, the one who is making all things new. To those of you who have helped and supported and walked and prayed with us on this journey, thank you so much. And to any who are reading this book, by design or accident, all power and grace to you as you keep stumbling forward to become who you are and who you should be. But along the way, don’t forget to reach out your hand and help someone else on their journey too. If we can keep on doing this, surely we will leave a small dent on each other and on our world, it will become a better place and we will become a better people. with love and blessings Kristin, Susan, Kaleb and Emma-Gabrielle Jack (Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2010). for more information, visit www.servantsasia.org or e mail kristin@servantsasia.org 5


On Seeing Royalty In The Streets One day, as I was driving my kids home from school through Phnom Penh, a small band of street children collecting recyclables threaded their way across the busy road, just in front of us. They were lead by a young girl, dressed in rags, dragging a large rice-sack of bottles and cans. She looked to be the same age as my daughter Emma, who I had with me in our tuk-tuk. I wrote this down when we got home.

Bobbing through the indifferent traffic and the belched out fumes of the out-wardly mobile a small nugget of joy laughs in the face of all that is so vulnerable. Those two eyes which must have seen the lack of all things but poverty shine like coals dark embers lit from within. Across one shoulder a rice-sack of scrap trails like a sash or a robe its train filled with tin-cans like diamonds and a million other dreams besides. She carries her weight with the grace of the high-born and those dark bare-feet should fill sequin and silver the way they glide across tar-seal and dust proving once more that even in a world that crushes and binds trading innocence for cash children are made for a Kingdom.

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| Poems and Prophecy |

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At Five You Laughed And Danced At five you laughed and you danced, dreaming that you were a princess chosen to live in a castle, surrounded by horses, knights and princes, cocooned in your palace of dreams. At five, your voice sang like water flowing on a summers day, your smile rivaled the sun, and your chestnut charcoal eyes blazed with beauty and with hope. At ten, you were afraid of a father who beat you and a mother who looked away, ashamed of poverty, ashamed of what you would become. At ten, your bewildered eyes brimmed with unnamed fears. At fifteen, you were in pain, abandoned by a father who loved his whisky more, sold by a mother who no longer cared if you lived or died, or if others took your breath from you. At fifteen, your eyes were abandoned pools, desolate in despair. At seventeen, you were old, your body had born the weight of too many hate-full men, and your eyes had seen far too much of what the darkness does. At seventeen, your shadowed eyes were hardened narrow shafts.

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| Poems and Prophecy | At eighteen, you were alive but dead, your youth and beauty taken, your body stolen, abused inside, your numbness spread, amphetamines all that kept you breathing. At eighteen, your bloodshot eyes were road maps of your pain. At nineteen, you were all but gone, in body, soul and spirit, a skin-bag of bones, gnawed by TB, AIDS, and thrush, which picked your flesh away. At nineteen, your jaundiced eyes stared from your skull like marbled glass. At twenty, you were dying in the street, thrown out lest you deter the custom with your weeping skin and orifices of blood and mucous carrying the stench of death. At twenty, your half-closed eyes pleaded for an end. By twenty and some days, your life was over, without ever having seen a castle, without ever having met a prince. Refuse collectors found, and had you cremated, unknown, unnamed, unmourned, forgotten. They could not tell that at five, your voice sang like water flowing on a summers day, your smile rivaled the sun,

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and your chestnut charcoal eyes had blazed with beauty and with hope. But there is One who sees, and One who knows, who remembers every deed to punish and reward, his princely eyes shine with every dream, and never lets them go. He sees you too, like a precious bride and leads you now into the palace of your dreams, and one day soon he will build a kingdom where you will live beyond the reach of men, with hope and love burning deep within, where you will live with more beauty yet, than any pompous, earthly Queen.

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That Dawn Will Come There will come a dawn, when the years those leeches ate, precious child-dreams destroyed, will fill your eyes once more, and you will learn to trust again, for you are your Father’s daughter, your precious name written on his hand. There will come a dawn, with justice in its rays, you will run from plywood prison cage to the high courts of your Lord, where every hope they stole and broke will be returned to you in full. In that place of light, your eyes will shine as you walk upright without a hint of bowing to their shame, for you’ll know Love, as Love knows you, in a kingdom where beauty grows from pain, his jealous love will guard your heart and restore your forgotten, sacred name. That dawn will come, that day will come, that day is coming soon.

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Mr. Rich Man (Okhna, Samdech…) After the violent eviction of the Dey Krahom community – about 400 families – in Phnom Penh, February 2009. ‘Okhna’ and ‘Samdech’ are honorific titles bestowed on rich and powerful people in Cambodia.

Hey Mr. Big Man driving in your SUV hid behind tinted glass can you tell me what you see? Swaggering down the center lane your chauffer leaning on the horn your flashing lights, your body guards can you tell me what it’s for? You’ve got titles, you’ve got pride, you’ve got mansions one, two, three, you’ve got all the fear money can buy but it still won’t set you free. By night you have a choice of beds each with silken sheets, you even have a choice of wines to soothe you off to sleep But all these trinkets and these trophies like your Buddha’s and your guns they won’t buy you any peace and they won’t disguise what you have done You’ve built your house on land you stole from the weak and from the poor, you’ve built your wealth by serving bigger masters just like any common whore

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| Poems and Prophecy |

Now these years of professional pimping are about to exact their cost, your heart’s about to fail you and your soul is all but lost You have so little time left before your tiny heart gives in, and when your karma kills you your gonna have to face your sin On that day, the poor will be your jury and no predicting what they’ll tell, so you’d better pray they have compassion or you could be burning up in hell.

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Kompot Sunset In contrast to what I wrote above – there is so much beauty in Cambodia too. And Kompot, with its wide river, Bokor mountain, and proximity to the sea is surely one of the most beautiful spots in Cambodia!

As all gods do you fell like a slowly toppling brazier of glowing coal and at your back the attendant night cautious, calm, polite unfolds and spreads its protective cape across every hill and vale, its servant hands smoothing daylong threads those shreds of light, those lines of shade into a soothing cloth, a felted yin and yang. Beyond the edge of this threshold bed an altar glows with the departing steps of a regent fled his flight revealed in a line of dying flame, dusty peach and sooted amber weary embers scraped into the sea, and now the land will sleep and souls find strength by trusting the valet darkness to hold the door secure till the Prince of light returns.

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Acts of Beauty, Acts of Humanity Mark 14:1-11

There were glimmers of beauty in your tears of shame that fell like silver that fell like rain a jar is broken pouring out its all into this story, history our story, her story, preparing for death pleading for life with a fragrance that makes hard places grow soft, by calling for mercy from those keeping the score from those counting the cost from those knowing the law. But a heart stripped naked is revealing real truth that runs deeper and cleaner than shame or profanity, it’s revealing a beauty, the divine-broken image in one woman’s humanity.

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Wounded Healer You know me and you love me even in the darkness of my fear, you are close and you are calling even in my wretched gut-despair, you know me and you love me and you ache to make me whole, you take my million broken pieces and mould them into one, you weave my light against my shadow braiding lines of beauty, threads of grace, till each scar is like stigmata a jagged lightening trace, revealing all that’s hidden all I could not face, for you use my shards of weeping as you build your masterpiece, drawing real self out of darkness to stand in sacred space, each piece of love and pain and failure held by holy scars till I be-come like you: a wounded healer with broken hands; the breath of God in flesh of man.

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Ask Me Where I Was And still I hear it on and on in the hidden corners of my mind that eternal scream which echoes down the corridors of time, refusing to be silenced it accuses me of passivity, thus an accessory to crime. And still I see it that spreading stain a wound that never heals that bloodied mud that asks me where I was that asks me what I saw: all the children dying in the hidden corners of a distant foreign famine, in a small forgotten war. So I pray my prayers I pay my tithe I read my Bible every day, I live in plenty I sleep in peace, and offer praises to Our God: that though you are there, I am here, and so your pain is far away, a different world I pray to never know; for I hope to live a blessed life where my hands are clean, my heart stays pure, 17


and there’ll be no stains on me. And yet, and yet, there are those awful moments unguarded and unbidden when your screams finally reach my ears and you ask me if my Jesus really is the same Jesus that was tortured for his faith crucified for his love, and there are those awful moments I finally see the terror in your eyes, and you make me wonder if He will one day ask me where I was and what I saw when His children were all dying in a distant foreign corner in a small forgotten war.

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Poised Between Two Choices here I stand laden with your gifts for you have given me every good and needful thing that I might live for you. here I stand the world beneath my feet poised between two choices: a life of privilege or of service? a life of pleasure or of love? here I stand high upon a mountain-top while a slick tongue whispers “you have worked hard, you deserve it, a little bit more won’t hurt, live it up, why not? Jump, and you’ll not be hurt Eat, and you’ll not grow fat Take, and you’ll not be tainted, for all these lovely things I give you now, if you’ll worship me.” Here I stand poised between two choices to consume your gifts like cotton-candy with which to line my empty soul or, cherish life like precious manna, bread which must be shared among my fellow beggars lest it turns to dust. 19


My Sister

I.

My sister, she lives her life like the butterfly searching for a garden more beautiful than the last. My sister, she lives her life on the jet plane searching for a city large enough to hold her heart. My sister, she lives her life searching for the love she knows is there; she’s just gotta find it someday, somehow she’s just gotta grasp it

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lay her life down and let love rule.

2.

My sister, did I tell you that I love you? That you are without a doubt one of my all-time favourite people? so full of life and fun and colour yet deep enough to care (a combination - you’ll agree that’s actually quite rare); and the time we’ve spent together has been far too brief for us to say all that needs be said: cos’ the gathering clouds they warn us that time, it really does grow short, and I fear one day it will be too late to say all we should have said; and so, if nothing else, please remember that I told you that I love you, and that God rules that City your heart is searching for (O.K?).

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Party Poem A party, loud music, a few drinks, and a superficial conversation with a dear friend. Yet in both of us there’s this longing to connect in a much deeper way, on a much deeper level. So why don’t we? What holds us back?

A wall of words that mostly serve to keep me 18 inches from your face. Do you understand my meaning when I talk of mutual sorrow (then quickly glance away), that on this crazy planet our mutual pain is sometimes all we hold in common? Can you see me like I see you beyond the mandatory smile, my well learned social grace I use to hide all trace of the frightened little child. But I’m looking past your words tonight crying out for something we can share, if only mutual failure, if only mutual fear. And so I’m letting them go, letting them drop, watch them fall from me, crumble at my feet (my party masks and theatre casts)

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see my image fade as I move a little closer now as I give up trying to impress. Hear me talk of pain, of lonely wars and wounded friends, see me as I see you, just another soldier in the battle to be free. Let us run together and scale the wall, every wall that makes us fear, that makes us walk alone, and even if we fail, at least we’ll fall together upon this broken earth where all else just falls apart.

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No Sparrow Falls No sparrow falls, nor molecule decays without you reaching out your hand. No tear cascades, no memory aches, or fades without you conscious of it all. No last breath is drawn, no lost love, forlorn without you bearing all their pain. No wound is born, nor scar deforms without it gouging out your palm. No daughter stumbles, no son departs without you crying out their name. No trigger’s pulled or knife blade falls without it slicing through your heart. No one dies, and no one weeps

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without a spasm in your chest, and no one wounds and no one kills without you screaming out in pain, for once again, the despair of men pierces through your side, an eternal wound of blood and salt, a saline flow from palm and foot, breast and brow and eye, that bears the pain of each and all, a weeping flow of love, never ceasing, nor forgetting, never letting go, till the day when all is filled, and all are healed, and all return, finally one with you.

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A Poem For Albert’s Funeral Recently, we met several times, but not for long, just a simple greeting in the street, your flashing smile, like a neon ad for Colgate, and that twinkle in your eye that spoke of mischief, impish laughter, and your joyous love of life. I was never sure of my ground when you came on so strong, never sure of where you stood and what you were trying to be. But I loved your laughter and your fun, I loved your foolish heart, and the way you ran and danced like a child running in the park. But I never told you that: how much I liked to see you run, and how I hoped one day you’d find that thing you were looking for.

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I have so many secrets in my heart, and you hid so much behind that smile: perhaps if we had shared all we knew, our hidden pain, our secret fear, maybe we could have helped each other to be free? Now all that’s left is hope, and I hope you found it. Somewhere, somehow, in those last moments of time, as light ran out and dark ran in, somehow I hope you found it.

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Intimacy There is a hunger for intimacy a longing for oneness twisting and turning spiraling between stomach and chest between hearts, between you and me; this is an awareness (perhaps), that we were once all that single breath that single mass that single energy that God spoke into existence, and it was, spiraling across the Universe as it unfolded expanding into a trillion infinite potentialities and dreams a multiplicity of possibility flying apart yet never forgetting the memory of oneness achings at the quantum core that still search and yearn for their place of be-longing.

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My Words Fall In The Gap My words, they fall in the gap between your heart and mine they slip through the hole between the kingdom that is and the kingdom that comes, they fall like spent lead, from a gun in the hands of a child struggling to make his mark. And yet, they are all I have to touch your heart, your mind, all I possess to bridge the chasm between your soul and mine, between where we are and where we want to be: the kingdom that is and the kingdom that comes, where we shall be one, no longer seeking, but found, no longer needing, but loved, (yes, we shall be love!) when we shall sit at that table drink the pure wine of all grace eat the bread of full presence knowing as we are known. it is a secret, it is a mystery but in the twinkling of an eye, in a moment of time we’ll see and we’ll know, and words’ill no longer wound with their clumsy imperfection but we’ll be healed as our hearts touch and our minds embrace at the table of our God. 29


This Is What It Means Inspired by Jeremiah 22:13-17; Isaiah 1:1-20; 58:1-14; Amos 5:21-24; Matthew 25:31-46.

Don’t palm me off with your civil religion and your politely murmured prayers, don’t hand me your filthy mammon or your barns of laundered cash. Don’t flatter me with your pious words catechisms so crisp and clean. I hate your victory chants in praise of what I’m not: your oh so personal idol, middle class and mute. But I am not silent to those with ears to hear: I weep, I groan, I scream, and I am so weary of your all too clever words your rituals and rhymes; your meaningless slick tokens of power-point and song. So once more I’m going to tell you (if you really want to hear), now this is what it means now this is what it means to know me: Go love the Hungry One with whom you must share your bread, go welcome in The Stranger who soils your silken bed, go sit still beside the Tortured One and hear his anguished cries, go bathe the disfigured, Wretched One caress His weeping skin, bear up the abused, Abandoned One 30


| Poems and Prophecy |

bent beneath Her grief, raise up the Fatherless One eating scraps from beneath your feet, for this is what it means for this is what it means to know me. Look! to those with eyes to see I hide my face, buried broken in the bodies of the least, and offer you the grace to heal the suffering of your King, for this is what it means this is what it means this is what it means to know me.

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Beauty May my eyes be opened to see the fragile God of beauty in whose image you have been made; may my eyes be opened to see Christ in you my sister, bent under the cross of poverty; may my eyes be opened to see every leaf and pebble trembling at his word; may my heart be opened to see a son revealed in me, life that explodes with life flowing from within, like a river rolling rocks, like an earthquake cracking tombs; may my ears be opened to the song in every stone prophesying resurrection, and a new earth waiting to be born.

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A Body Out Of Shape Lord it seems to me your body is all out of shape and the world stares aghast at this malformed oaf denouncing so much with its huge lips obscuring the heart. We teeter on tiny legs staggering from judgment to scandal gesticulating wildly as lives slip from our too few hands. Lord, it seems to me your gospel has too many mouths and too few legs, too many talking heads swollen with self importance, and not enough hands blistered from touching the pain of a world bent on self immolation. Lord, it seems to me your church has too many men wearing suits and ties when a labourer’s shirt is what’s needed, so many execs in black shiny shoes when your sandals were frayed and dust caked from walking; and Lord, it seems to me your rescue effort is staffed by too many women with microphone-lapels when the tools that you gave us were the basin and the towel

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Christmasanity Silent night, Holy night, Christmas cards, tinsel and bells, tender turkey and blood red ham, springtime lambs, fleecy white, pure and clean, each of us saved by the power of righteous living, going to heaven, holding tight: forget the dark, the dirt, the dung, antiseptic stable, deluxe suite, halos shining golden and bright, desert wanderers gone too far: the best of food, of wine, of coin, German cars and beautiful wives, filtered pools and unstained lives, forget the thirst, the despair, the pain, silver crosses, three-piece shrouds – Simon Sorcerer knows why he came – blood and tears lost in the years, we’ll smile and go to church again: but without pain, there is no healing, and without sacrifice, there is no salvation.

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Truth Is More Than Theory When It’s Wrapped In A Man Who is this clown who dares to speak truth to power and power for the weak? All truth is threatening if it suggests that I’m wrong but if it is silenced I can still feel so strong. Angry questions mounting lies block your ears and close your eyes.

But truth it lives it never will die murder and bury it and still it will rise. for truth’s not a theory you can trap in a book and its more than theory your scholars forsook it’s a woman, it’s a man, with tears in her eyes with blood on his hands it’s a woman, it’s a man, with love in her eyes, with holes in his hands,

Lion heart prophet voice fragile body conscious choice.

Understand?

Blackened eyes broken tooth swollen lips silent truth. Sacred offering proffered cheek pinioned hands nailed feet. Human love slaughtered lamb broken body bang, bang, bang. Truth can be mocked you can spit in its face you can laugh at its weakness you can crush every trace. 35


Religious Druggery We have turned the teachings of Jesus into a religion, living words into opium. We have turned a blasphemous prophet into a harmless sacrament that comforts and confirms: we are druggists, who have made Jesus safe. We have taken a table, a love feast spread so that zealot and harlot, leper and lunatic, could be welcomed and fed, and turned it into unearthly symbol of wafer and thimble for the righteous instead. We have taken a cross, clotted rack of brutality (electric chair built to burn heretic and radical) and crafted it into pop fashion accessory. We are publicists and anesthetists who have turned this Jesus into someone respectable: a pillar of the community, a seal of approval.

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We are druggists and alchemists who have turned his blood into water (thin and insipid and easy to swallow) we have taken the food of the prophets, the poets, the revolutionaries, we have taken living bread, words that burned with holy rage, and turned them into pap for the pious, pills for the nervous, and homilies for the dead.

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Another Funeral Poem A brief glow of incandescence casts it’s golden shadow along the corridors of time a fragile silver thread by which we cling to the very breath of life. And all around the swirling cosmos is full of nothing while stars blaze for a moment then fall, cold and still into the gaping void that nought escapes. Back and forth the loom it shuttles thread on thread in frenetic energy and then is spent still beneath the weavers hand and nothing’s left to show except the tapestry designed. The threads are cut the design held up before each and every eye, God’s hand bears down to test the strength of the weave and of the cloth searching for the colours that should be chosen to line the corridors of time.

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Theology We all are children fumbling in the dark feeling for a handle searching for a word that might describe the indescribable. We have no tongue in the languages of men to circumscribe this shape this size, this form, and so we use our clumsy hands to reach for rainbows and press them to our hearts. I am so weary of creedal systems, even more of doctrine, for spirit will not slide underneath a microscope, or flow inside a formula no matter how elegantly precise. But I am all ears to Poetry and Prophecy, the wild song that rides upon the Wind and on the Light, an ode to Love and Wonder sung to the One and only Word that ever truly took on shape.

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So Hard To Follow A commentary on Matthew chapter 26

so easy to yield to the night so easy to fall in the dark so easy to look at the waste, and not at the heart; so easy to judge, so hard to love. so easy to grasp the practical solution of cold hard cash in the hand; so hard to swallow the miracle of bread and wine, transformed into elements of grace flowing from the Son of Man to the Son of God; so easy to say ‘I will stand with you forever’, so hard to kneel and surrender it all, tasting the bitter dregs of suffering like blood dried on the lips; so easy to hate and fear the darkness within and without, to choose cowardice or violence with nothing else between, but the beating of a frail heart that pounds like running feet; so easy to make sacred vows in the soft light of day, so hard to stand true and alone among the mocking shadows of night. so easy to believe the truth that love incarnate will conquer all evil, but so hard to follow love that is crucified.

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After Some Prayer, A Poem Looking for the words to say all that needs be said is never easy when so much has been said before. So I open my heart lean on its rusty hinge and let a little of its warmth escape another secret see the light of day. All of those feelings buried deep within me mixed emotions of the innermost part the swirling nebulae the blazing star a million galaxies span my heart. Who can know, but God alone the core of my being and all it contains? Who can distinguish truth from error and teach me to love with a love free from deceit? Who can whisper such wisdom to my soul and lift me above the cords of conceit? Who but God alone the one true love who holds all galaxies in the palm of his hand, and feels too the pain of each fallen star.

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A Poem For Myself You said you loved me, but you were too scared to touch me, your fear wouldn’t let your arms unfold and embrace my weakness. You said you loved me, But when you talked to me, you talked of the weather and of money, of foolish things that fade. You would not look me in the face for the things that I was hiding; you were afraid that you would see it, that I’d tell you, and that it would become part of you also: another burden to carry, another nail in your cross. You said you loved me, but your eyes wandered, as you wondered how to leave politely. You asked me to speak, but did not listen, especially to what I could not tell you, for your ears were straining much further than my voice could carry: you were listening for a dying voice within. You said you loved me, but your hands gripped your heart in a vice of uncertainty that betrayed your words. You would not give me your heart; You were afraid, afraid it really was all you owned.

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Two Edged Sword My words like clumsy swords clattering to the ground often wound those most loved when all along I had hoped with surgeons touch to bring healing. My words like clumsy swords evoke the sounds of war and provoke those most near to stand ready to defend when all along I had hoped to extend the palm first hand My words like clumsy swords clattering to the ground make so much noise their real intent is too often hidden by their imperfect sound. And all along my only hope was to love and heal as I have been by the two edged Sword that cuts and heals.

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The Sound Of Worlds Colliding I visited Banda Ache in January 2005, where Servants had workers helping after the tsunami. Later I wrote these words, reflecting on two appalling horrors: the tsunami, and the invasion of Iraq.

tectonic plates were slipping from the shelf where God had put them two-hundred thousand shattered pieces of screaming heaped up people floating like swollen embryos when those unholy waters broke. close by ten-thousand men were marching ‘cross a fragile bridge of truth that shook like fear incarnate every blood stained boot that hammered strode from trust to hate sent to fight for a rich-mans right (just like every war before), spans were moaning, sighing at such abuse of form and function every joint was dis–located stretched to cross that aching gap ‘tween truth and justice.

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But some sounds are so constant we can no longer discern their voice like the birth pangs of the cosmos, and the groaning of creation struggling to break free. Or the hissing rasp of flesh on stone (a billion bony faces being ground into the gravel to keep our feet unscathed). Oh but that day is coming when every secret whispered and every sound suppressed will arise, a wailing, flailing crescendo, and accuse us of the worst of crimes : inattentativeness, apathy, delay.

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When The Stars Come Tumbling Down… You said only good would come from the tower man was building for everyone was learning to join their hands as one, everyone was learning to look up instead of down. But all I saw was disparity and a monument to greed consumerisms temple that told people what they need, all I saw was burning ground stripped of any good, as the faithful prayed for power to strengthen their sickle and their fist, as they gathered without ceasing from fields they’d never sowed, as they gathered without slowing from lands they’d never owned. Day and night they toiled to build their monument to greed, a tower in a city that would reach the stars above it would steal the food from children, it would break the parents backs but they were too busy with success to notice babies made to starve, they were too engrossed in worship to hear the sound of weeping carry from afar. The Elders begged for money and a PR man smiled on our screen, he apologized for crawling but explained “time is brief ” and they were needing more, so much more of everything, there was weeping in his preaching 46


| Poems and Prophecy | as he said “we’re sad about the cost to sky and sea and land and life, but when heaven’s reached it’ll be worth every soul we’ve lost”. Then he called for courage from those he’d never meet, “lay your life upon the altar” he sang in a pleasant lilt, then he danced a dance of victory, studiously ignoring the blood of others on his feet. But the city is decaying crumbling from within, the tower’s already swaying despite the pledges pouring in. Some are growing restless our eyes have begun to see another city a city free from greed, a city without towers with no empires left to build, where a man no longer strives to be more privileged than the next or climb the rung of broken lives to possess and hold the sky. The city that we see has no need of light, it is lit at every turn by justice from on high, and is basking in the glory of the stars that will tumble down in that day of reckoning, the day of equality when the dead are raised, the poor are lifted, and the proud cast back down upon the ground. 47


Make Me make me a man of spirit not of law - jot or tittle; exacting words line upon line exhausting under the weight of gravity’s intense burden of truth. make me a man of spirit molten flesh, blazing soul easily moved light as a feather on the breeze of your call always listening, open, embracing in a soul grown large stretched trying to fathom why you still love me when i love so little and claim so much. make me a man of spirit not just of words make me a man who listens to the silent subtext of grace beneath every pained conversation beneath every empty smile beneath every weary eye beneath every burnt-out dream beneath the surface of plenty the much too much of nothing masking the fear. make me a man of spirit who can love even emptiness (even my own) and so transform it for you. 48


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Only God is One Only God is One, the rest of us galaxies of circling atoms flung out at the moment of creation across our Universes across our empty spaces, we are not One; we are a house divided, spirit against body, brother against sister, nation against nation, and our souls reflect it like a shattered mirror a thousand broken pieces that cut and hurt and grieve, silently resigned yet wishing for a way to be made One again.

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Wretchedly Beautiful 1. Wretchedly Beautiful I am god-breath and dirt shikinah and clay made lower than an angel at times I’m less than an animal; for I can be the artist revealing hidden glory, and I can be the healer taking up your limp so that you may walk free; and I can be the destroyer of every hope you ever held with my words or my fists with my guns or my cash; I can gouge out your eyes with the point of my finger, and I can make you weep blood just to satisfy my justice. I am wretchedly beautiful. I am Hitler and Hiroshima. I am September 11 and Mai Lai. I am Manson and Michelangelo. I am Paisley and Gandhi. I am genius and genocide. I am lechery or love. And so I must choose.

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2. I carry the image of Christ and of Cain; I can reach out in love or lash out in pain, I can take you up in my arms, or take up arms. I can offer you forgiveness or bomb you back into the stone-age, smashing all of your babies heads on the rocks and the trees, till the whole world runs red with warm flesh and blood till the whole world runs red with the cost of my justice. 3. All this I can do because I am wretchedly beautiful just like you: dark man so dangerous, white man so cunning, neighbour and stranger, maybe my brother, my son, and my mother, my cousin, my killer, my enemy, my lover. Yes; you and me, we are like one another, with nothing to separate us but choice. And so we must choose.

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Patriotism Is A Weasel-Word Patriotism is the last crevice of the slithering politician seeking another vote, it is the sales pitch of the arms dealer in search of another million, it is the subterfuge of the oil man marching as to war. Patriotism is a weasel-word, that can be anything you want, moving fast and low it is a beautifully disguised happy clappy killing machine. Patriotism is a delusion we must unmask: rip away its camouflage of flag and bunting, ribbon and uniform, business suit and tie. Patriotism is a word full of burning passion but devoid of any love: how can you explain a monster that sacrifices children for the sake of dirt and flags? Patriotism is a slick, sick word that cheers when others die, yet dangerous as it is, it has three more spirits waiting more dangerous at its side: 52


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Nationalism (false love), Racism (false pride), Militarism (false strength), and when they walk together the family name is ‘Genocide’. Patriotism is a blinding word that says: ‘my sons are worth two of yours, and mine must flourish even though yours must die’. Patriotism is a lying word, it denies that we are all equal, together fragile fallen lovers made in the likeness of our God. But is there nothing good to say about all those parades and flags? OK, to be fair… Patriotism is a cheer-full word, ever ready to dance and sing (when the likeness of our God is bombed and broken, and the blood runs red along the shattered streets); and patriotism is a noble word, for it can live a life of sacrifice (so long as the final cost is borne by your child, not mine, by your tribe, not ours, by your skin, not mine). To be fair, there is a lot of good patriotism can do: for one, it can unite a nation in a time of war. 53


That Day Will Come Isaiah Chapter 2, Chapter 9, Chapter 65

That day will come when every soldiers shirt soaked in blood and dirt will be fuel for a flame of glory. That day will come when each blade and gun will glow red ‘neath the falling fists of justice and of love, raining down with righteous fury, to turn the tools of death and hate into plows and shears and wells of flowing water, changing chaos into order, transforming seas of bloody pain into fields of amber grain, a fight to feed the world with bread like manna. That day will come when no weeping mother or broken hearted father will have to hold their trembling child and watch him die for the want of a cup of water, while in penthouse suite the bloated feast, growing rich and fat on the spoils of every war. That day will come, when hope will find its home and each man and woman 54


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will receive reward in fair and righteous measure, and every act of love or hate, of greed or good, will be revealed for all to see, will be revealed for what it is, and then justice will be done in all its fearful glory.

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War Is For Children War is for children beating on drums, war is for school yards where it’s us versus them, war is for lost boys who want to be men. War is for children mourning fathers, war is for brothers killing brothers, war is for mothers losing children, war is for girlfriends weeping at gravesides, war is for boyfriends too afraid to admit fear, war is for killers who’d rather be lovers, and war is for children lost without fathers, and war is for children looking for heroes, and war is for Generals who want to be heroes, and war is for heroes slaughtering fathers, and war is for lost boys who want to be men.

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You Knew My Name Revelation 2:17

you knew my name when it was a mystery to me you called me by name the one I had lost you loved my name though I had despised it so long you drew out my name the one caught in my throat and taught me the sound of each melodic chord. You sang my name over and over the lies of the night till I knew it was true. You cried out my name till I wept at the beauty revealed in your pain. _________ You guard my name in a sacred place so buried in love so deep in grace it will last forever never mis-said, never mis-placed you promise to know it and say it till I learn to sing it with you and our voices merge into one song (not two), one voice, one name. Just One. Just one.

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Holy Ground Walk wakefully, with eyes alert and feet unshod, for we tread on holy ground, a sacramental universe full of blazing stars and burning bushes. Everywhere we look we see trees like angels and gulls soaring on the breath of God. Thin places abound where breezes whisper of love and longing and seas caress coraled shores. Everywhere we look we see infinite skies touching the hem of heaven fingering the seam where time and space invert, and curses reverse, to heal the shame.

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Every leaf and stone, every meteor and star, every mountain top or grain of sand, every human heart and eye, every tear or sigh, every lovers glance, every open hand, every cricket singing, every atom spinning, every sparrow falling, every creature living is a sacrament, a sign, a blessed, holy thing calling us to see and know: that Emmanuel made flesh holy, that a curtain has been rent, and now: heaven is invading earth, with a lovers holy passion.

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Loneliness It’s not so much loneliness as my contempt of it which entangles me that brings me face to face with my very self. I stand on the narrow ledge of an angry pool within staring till my eyes are aching at the distorted mirror gazing back at me. It is a chaos of tarnished image swirling darkened needs ideals weakened by duplicity struggling to survive a vortex of deceit where nothing is as it seems encountered from without. An amphitheatre’s pool, a chamber’s hollow footsteps where I follow myself to the edge but dare not drink the bitter water nor embrace the pallid man who beckons from the deep.

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What I Could Become Lord, I am afraid of so many things of what others say and don’t say of being accepted and of being rejected, of my own hearts accusation, of being loved and of not being loved. I am afraid of trying and of not trying, of success and of failure, of being seen and unseen, of being praised and being blamed; I am a prisoner of elaborate speculation, a victim of loaded expectation. Lord I am afraid of so many things, and so I cry out from this mirrored room: “Living Spirit, set me free, grant me love surpassing knowledge!” let me understand I am a son of God, and all creation holds its breath stands on tippy-toes stares at me with wide-eyed wonder astonished at the creature I could be: fully you, fully me.

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The Hardest Thing When I see the crying child his tears cut me to the quick I feel the shame inside for all those things I never did. Are my arms so weak, so tired they will not reach out and touch, and brush the tears from your cheek? Is my heart so hard it can watch you weep and still turn away obsessed with its own need, its own pain, its own apathy? Can I sense your hurt and still not respond, paralysed with inadequacy chained by uncertainty crippled with inertia? You cry for help in your own pathetic way and I am offended because it is not the way I’d choose to cry (if I ever cried). I am so proud. And I am so selfish. How dare you inflict your pain on me and beg for help in a way other than how I like to give it? What do you want of me? What do you want?

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What? It is the hardest thing. It is the greatest thing. Why do you ask so much of me? Why not faith? Or hope? ‌but Love‌??

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One Body, One Grain 1 Corinthians 15:35-41; Colossians 1:15-17; Revelation 21:1 and 5

Polar bear to Bengal tiger, jungle green to Alaskan stream artic tundra to desert thunder, rain forest to coral bloom holy mountain to sacred plain, trembling atom, circling planet raging sea, empty space, chlorophyll and molecule, carbon and oxygen, prophecy and poetry, oracle and miracle. Every creature draws its breath from the same sacred flame, howling with laughter, weeping with pain, dancing with glory in a cosmic ballet, every quark joins the chorus, every quasar exclaims, the rhythmic voice of creation that rocks like a train onward and outward from station to station, glory to glory from Eden to Kingdom, innermost to outermost, from microscope to telescope, chaos to cosmos, from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, till the blink of an eye when all is revealed to be one substance one body, one grain 64


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Pre-dawn Poem As a night before a summers morn laden with the warmth of things to come heavy with the sultry promise of life, and life in all its fullness, i wait, o God, i wait on you. awoken by a breeze at midnight that whispers of a blazing sun to come, i find my senses strangely jumbled thrilled by anticipations ambiguous knowing, filled with the awe of mysterious certainty that fears not the night nor its smothering depth (so deep, so deep), and yet there is a warmth, i feel dawn in the air, my skin laughs in waves of static energy caressed in folds of black velvet and cradled in the assurance of You: in knowing the unknown. midnight, and the breeze is heavy with scent, myrrh and cloves, summer blossom, a far off beach with aqua thunder, and trees that whisper to one another “come dance with me; tonight my Love may come, come dance with me to the cicada’s song”. as if in a dream, as if awake, i long to come and dance beneath the stars and their bursts of revelation. how long o Lord, how long? the night cannot tarry forever: my senses are coiled, ready to explode, knowing a sunburst of dazzling light is but hours away. and then we will dance my love, with the trees of the field, with the mountains and the hills, then we will dance. 65


Broken Edges In days gone by I would have received your trembled offering like a jagged stone, your tear-filled words would have seemed another burden to carry, another nail in my cross. But now I have grown more secure in my skin, less defensive in my heart, more aware of who I am and who I’m not, I can accept your gift without being crushed beneath its brooding weight, I can hold it lightly like the precious pearl it really is, I can hold it close, listen, love, then hand it back to you and God

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as our tears of blessing anoint our prayers of hope (and surrender). And now I understand that for you to share your pain with me is no burden, but a privilege; for our souls to meet like this without pretence or disguise, without feigning triumph or defeat, for our souls to dare to show their broken edges is an act of moral courage, revealing life most sacred, the really real, an encounter with the holy. Through tear washed eyes I see God in you, crucified and rising, and so my spirit sighs whispering with yours groaning, really, truly: holy, holy, holy.

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Like A Sparrow Fallen Like a sparrow fallen cup your hands around her breathe your breath upon her whisper words of peace and still her trembling. Like a mother loving cup your hands around her press your lips upon her gentle loving breath, sooth her fears and love her back to life.

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Stalled In Bombay Bombay, February 2004: where they were selling girls and gods, and the price was much the same.

Stalled in Bombay traffic scenarios collide, outside the taxi window two worlds in collusion, to form one hideous divide: a boy was selling strawberries, a girl was begging bread; a man drove a Mercedes, another lay unfed; a woman balanced Raybans on untroubled hennared head; a boy was passing mucous beside the temple gate; nearby devotees sold me prayer and sugared grain, told me I’d earn a better karma for just 500 rupees in Krishna’s name; then beside the Hindu quarter, and beyond the Prophets reach, the pimps were selling bodies - really different merchandise but the price was much the same - for stolen girls, or holy candy: more sacrifice, more pain.

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I’m Flowing To You Everything is flowing to you all of my hopes, all of my fears all of my dreams, everytime, everywhere they’re flowing to you, every river, every stream, every crystal and mountain, every glacier and plain they’re flowing to you, every weakness and strength all wisdom and folly every gift I possess every failure and shame they’re flowing to you, all of my love, all of my lust all that is pure, all that is dust all of my righteousness each of my sins they’re flowing to you. And now I surrender step into the flow I’m ready to drown I’m ready to swim I’m ready to die fall deeper, crash harder and dissolve into you. All of my beauty, all of my scars, all that is lovely, all that is dark, its flowing to you, its flowing to you; I’m flowing to

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Inside this book are words born out of an adventure and a journey. Kristin Jack has worked with at risk teenagers, with those struggling with mental health issues, and most recently as a development worker among the very poor. For the last 16 years, he has lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, among some of the city’s poorest residents. With the help of his friend Alistair Craig, he here maps out this journey with words and images that crackle like flames across each page.

9 789996 352010

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Poetry and Prophecy