Archive for the ‘the darkside’ Category


On any given day…

January 25, 2017


On any given day

you just don’t know

which demons from history’s distant land

will walk in through the door

and say “I’ve come to shake your hand”


On any given day

you just don’t know

what strange log will fall

right in your way

diverting your steps a little

on that given day

and bending around

so as not to have faltered

you well may be saved

but your path ever altered


On any given day

you just don’t know

what new story you will hear

and so make lies of a truth

you had once held dear

or what your eyes

will yet perceive

making true what you dared not

before believe.


On any given day

you just don’t know

with what labour

the hour shall be tasked

that  yesterday you could not

have imagined being asked

On any given day.


Any given day is but

a gift  unknown unseen

any given day

these fraught and fragile futures

that have – as yet – never been

which on any given day

can unwrapped and opened be

for those who any given day would dare

and are given gifted free.



August 22, 2016
how is it that all

my jolts and quakes

don't scare you away -

though I fear you stay

only in duty

how is it you see

the cracks and breaks

where nothing fits

my bloodied bits

as if beholding a beauty?


how is it beyond

my stutters and shakes

your patience hears

the truth in tears

and resonance rolls
between souls, 



i sense your stomach turns

and your heart near fails

at my gruesome tales

yet you do not flee

but peer in closer and see

a thing to be held and healed

to be longed for and loved

a life to be whole

if dared.



four o clock brain

September 28, 2015

the four o’clock brain
wrings itself out
all its putrid dishwater
the mopped up
thoughts and feelings
dripping down
the inside of my skull
befouling the backs of my eyeballs

twitches and sounds
disrupt my rest
but I am the source of the disturbance

I rise to act

to distract
boil the kettle
wash the day’s past dishes
[always wise to leave a task for such a purpose]
make coffee
escape into the garden

the moon was large
and beautiful
and too bright to look at directly
this morning at 4:30 am.
Just for about 20 minutes
before it sank below the city horizon
I sat and stared at it
through the filter of the dark branches
of the liquid amber
while a single magpie
sang over me
sang over the morning

what strange prayers
we humans pray
stuck in our moment
yet conversing with eternity

what strange faith
I have received
that I would whisper words to God
at four and five in the morning
and expect to be heard
when a magpie carol
much sweeter sounds can offer

other birds sang
in complex layered loops
far off
and the gently the hum of the freeway
below me
rose and rose
restoring to my awareness
the other humans
the world

the cool fresh on my cheek
the hot cup in my hand
the huff of my breath
visible warmth in the chill air before me
evidence that I am alive

I down my coffee
bringing familiar comfort
bringing the flavour of courage
to close my eyes
and take my crumpled mind,
now rinsed and flapped and flattened a bit
still a little damp
inside the house
and I sleep again.



June 16, 2014
Grief stricken american soldier; Haktong-ni area of Korea, 28 August 1950

Grief stricken american soldier; Haktong-ni area of Korea, 28 August 1950













will I ever be well again?

will I ever be whole?
If I grit my teeth
and stretch and strain
will I attain such a goal?

will I ever be strong again?
will I ever be brave?
If I set my face
and I raise my chin
will I dare to come out of the cave?

will I ever be useful again?
will I ever serve the cause I believe?
If I penitent crawl
and recant it all
will the powers yet grant a reprieve?

will I ever be normal again?
will I ever come close?
if I paint my face blank
and sing the same tune
will I strike a convincing pose?

will I ever belong again?
did I ever belong before?
we are born in the like
of the God spurned and killed
and our souls with each other still war

will I ever be real again?
no – not any more real than this
for I breathe in the atoms
of rocks and of waves
and the wind that stirred the abyss

oh, Christ of the whole
the ravaged, yet real
your used flesh and cast aside bones
your sick’ning death warns
of our terrible selves
and yet, reconciles all it owns

all you assumed
is somehow redeemed
in this murderous plot of deceit?
Can our streams of bitterly
acidly tears
no longer sting but pour sweet?

Yes – when shed for another’s pain
singing laments lacrymose –
of those locked out and locked up and locked in
those crushed and crunched in cathedrals of spin
those non-conforming non-compus non-grata
enigmatically ensconced in statistics and data
those not on the black and white-pink or blue end
those on the spectrum where the colours and categories blend
those invisible, vulnerable, valuable freaks
ignored or condemned when culture speaks –

If such sweet tears upon your cheeks stain
they be shed like Christ’s blood, for those.


Between Ugliness and Beauty

April 19, 2014

This year for Lent I gave up beauty.

I’m a vegan, so giving up meat or dairy or chocolate is a non-event for me.

About 10 years ago, I took a vow of simplicity in regards to my wardrobe and personal grooming, so wearing black and no makeup are also my regular disciplines.

Reichert, Crucifixion vii, 1991

Reichert, Crucifixion vii, 1991

The straight-forward obvious Lenten fasts don’t make much impact. While I was puzzling over what to give up for Lent, one cheeky fellow traveller suggested I might give up discipline and self denial.

But this year I gave up beauty. Not being beautiful, but observing and paying attention to beauty.

Of course, it is impossible to remove all beauty from the environment. But I have closed my eyes and my heart to it as an intentional focus for this season. And I have taken up a text book on ugliness, and studied it throughout this season, forcing my eyes upon and filling my mind with the images of the grotesque, the unseemly, the plain and unbecoming,the tragic, the macabre and the repulsive.

I took Umberto Eco’s book ‘On Ugliness’ as my study guide, and meditated on the art and literature it offers as examples. It hasn’t been pleasant.

Grunewald’s Christ covered in thorns has mesmerised me – almost to the point of a strange comfort. The ugliness of extreme pain, of every nerve pinched and every node pressured and every surface of skin scoured and scourged raw, the soul stretched to snapping point and the rising floods of acid poison that turn a tide of torture.

Grunewald, The Crucifixion (detail), 1515

Grunewald, The Crucifixion (detail), 1515


I have drunk in not only many of the ugly images of the crucifixion, but also the repulsive gallery of our nation’s injustices and the appalling panorama of global poverty and power. An acrid stomach-churning view.

And I have taken up that other text book of the grotesque and terrifying – the Bible; reading its texts of despair, lamentation, depravity. It gilds no lily, but tells it like it is. Don’t try to follow it as a self improvement manual or a better homes and gardens guide.

Those who know me well realise that this is no shallow ‘toe in the water; simulation game for me. I have known plenty of life’s ugliness both from within and without. A gruelling pilgrimage lined with mysteriously placed gifts, choosing life, choosing love, choosing beauty has come in the form of a dare to stop and open a gift in the dark chasms of pain.

So this ‘ugliness fast’ is a retracing of a path. The path of following Jesus. The path to redemption. The path of grace and courage to look at people and landscapes and actions that are unpalatable, unattractive, ugly with the  scars, ugly with hate, ugly with fear, ugly with pain, ugly with threats. The call to ugliness starts us on a path of looking at evil and not making excuses. If I can’t do that, I can’t self examine. If I can’t look at evil without papering over or flinching a concession, I can’t repent. And I can’t forgive. Just like Jesus I have to be able to look at evil and recognise it. To say ‘Forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing…but I do; and I ask forgiveness on their behalf.’

About 10 years ago I walked a similar path in looking at my own face. In my early 30s I was still a compulsive self-harmer, drawing blood almost as often as I caught my reflection in the mirror, the urge to deface my own visage overwhelming any rational logic.  I shaved my head. And I set about the task of actually being able to look myself in the face. In our selfie-obsessed culture, some might find this hard to believe. Or perhaps we realise that selfies are a way of not really looking ourselves in the eye, but filtering ourselves through the ‘safety’ of a lens – a digital shield between us and reality.

It took two years of this spiritual discipline of shaving my head for me to really find it comfortable to look at my own face. And then one day I realised I had stopped harming myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d pointed the blade at myself. After five years (I know, five years; miracle healing doesn’t mean ‘quick-fix’)  I had come to love my bumps and wrinkles, my enormous teeth and wonky eyebrows, and also my fiery eyes and the smile that I can’t stop monopolising my jaw. I stopped shaving my head, and I have let my hair grow out wildly however it wants, as a symbol of the freedom I found in accepting what was in the mirror as neither ugly nor beautiful, but good. Along this path of staring at ugliness, I looked squarely at a lot of ugly characters lurking behind my eyes. I learned not to look away, not to flinch, but to fix their gaze and say ‘Forgive them: they don’t know what they’re doing’ as well. This Lent has retraced those steps, and now the discipline of eyes filled with ugliness comes soon to an end.


jarClose to the end of Lent a friend sent me an image which heralded the impending end of my ugliness fast. It was a beautiful image, and yet it embodied the seam of beauty through the contours of brokenness.’Full of gold that radiates through only because of the brokenness’ was the tag line that accompanied it.

Beauty – even as I whole heartedly embrace it again – will always be this kind of beauty. A beauty framed in flaws. A beauty that can only be viewed by those willing to look at broken things.

Let it start tomorrow with looking at a grave stone cracked open, golden gleaming light pouring forth.

Let my eyes flicker open again and see beauty anew.



Good friday confusion

April 18, 2014


this bloody man

this strung-up, beaten,
defeated,leaking, howling man

his death row, death-throe gibberish still confusing me:
‘forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’
how can that be good-friday theology?

Don’t you mean ‘forgive them because

they have confessed and repented

with a contrite heart

and a willing obedience to change their behaviour

in conformity with your holy laws?’

Over all the comos
you bleed all over us
your boundaries all torn and transgress’d
quicker than we can mop you up
you make more bleeding mess

if you are god and human
if you are innocent but convicted guilty
if you are manly yet ravaged like a defenceless woman
if you are wise yet inarticulate
if you are abused yet forgive
if you are holy yet god-forsaken

are not all our sortings, all our categories,
all our wrongs and rights made strangely to bleed into one another?

the way a dead-end, the truth is belied,
and the greatest of these – the life – has died
serious scribes joke and jeer
atoning priests accuse
passers by just poke and peer
see how Romans deal with Jews?

the sky is black in height of day
the dead rise from their graves
the executor salutes the damned
one bandit bandies brave
one thief in paradise is sent
and Son of God is hell-bent


the first twenty times your heart gets broken

December 9, 2013

Cranach the Elder, The Good Thief, 1501-02the first twenty times your heart gets broken

it feels as if you will die

and then even worse than the pain

feels the fact that you haven’t died

and are still living


broken in bits

but after number twenty

or perhaps twenty one

or twenty two

around there somewhere

you become accustomed to the rhythm

the break, the bleed, the mess,

the seizing up, the sting, the raw,

the wound, the weep, the scab:

the numb,

and if you are lucky

the heal.

and it becomes painfully yet manageably familiar.

you know what to do

what to expect

you know you won’t bleed out completely

you know your blood isn’t that thin

it is ironically strong and thick with love

and clots well

doesn’t it just?

but every so often in the next one hundred breaks

there are odd times that the rhythm doesn’t follow

you just plain break

and there you are

open and exposed

jagged edges

out and in

no safe place to lay your hand to hold the pain

no safe place for another to offer a steady hand of comfort

Yet…if you must be so stretched out vulnerable

and pierced

it may be that you look to one side

and there see one

like you

bloodied and broken

heart betrayed, besmeared, bereft

and it may be that you breathe out a prayer

to die

but let it be to die with this one

for he dies alongside

and so in his death and yours

to meet

and in meeting

be met by Love.