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Raiding the Inarticulate

Aug 20, 2005

6 am ride on the back of a scooter to a stone carved temple on the outskirts of the city. The wind whips by. I look up to see the world is wearing a wide-brimmed sky sombrero today. By the side of a road a bare tree stretches like an arthritic dancer. Stripped down simplicity, gnarled grace. My gaze catches on one dark branch- a twisted finger daring higher than the rest to stroke a cheek of heaven.

That moment in itself a temple before the temple.

And much later that same morning I stumble across this poem...


- by Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.


:-) That last line (likely cryptic to most as it was to me) I discovered after brief research names "sea areas in the shipping forecast issued by the
Meteorological Service, and broadcast by BBC Radio Four. The shipping forecast always follows a set pattern, a formalised routine.The broadcast goes out at 12.30 and 05.30, so that you tend to catch it if you can't sleep late at night or if you've woken up early, worrying - and then you follow the coast of the British Isles in your mind's eye and think of those working the dark sea areas, and sometimes you feel soothed."

Inexplicable and understandable somehow no?
Because Holiness happens that way doesn't it? In unguarded unplanned for moments. Behind the low blare of street horns and the lulling drone of the radio. Our preoccupations pale so much into insignificance but all it takes is an accidental awareness to feel it- the steady insistent throb of a world approaching the sacred, the dazzling inventiveness of its quiet antics along the way. So that without your being always aware, you are in each moment playing Pilgrim in the one-step-at-a-time journey called-Now. And everything that touches you is an Occasion for telling you this. Every bell that rings wildly in the distance calling you to the centre, every gaze that wandering into yours, stops to smile, every memory that answers to the trigger of the clanking of an old bucket, every toiling thankless ant you step carefully over in the garden, every hand that you hold in yours with the mapped lines of palms that maybe explain the mystery of this meeting and every bare tree that braves the distance with a rooted arrested leap to touch the sky...

Eliot once called poetry 'a raid on the inarticulate'. Prayer could be that.
Life too. If we let it.


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