By Philip Quirke
On storm-lashed beach,
shells and seaweed mangled;
rescue a conch for its elegant spirals;
when I put my ear to the shell
in a quiet, reflective moment,
I hear breaking waves, and growling wars.
News bad again today, diplomats
requesting mercy for non-combatants
but blind-eyed to reckless killing,
whatever measurement you use,
however you massage the news.
it is in us all to diminish the ‘other’.
Expressions of the Divine in religion
sidelined when needed most:
where, it seems,
Jew and Muslim and Christian
have lost their bearings, amnesia
to their scriptures’ core of compassion;
Media, politics and opinion shapers
empty humanity of transcendence,
open their hands in fatalism:
‘this is the way the world is, this is how things are...’
unable to critique ideologies
which foment hatred and division
Along the beach, wind and wave still high,
hardy walkers with their dogs
meet, chat, discuss the news,
lament the state of the world,
the illusion of power of men with weapons
blind to their powerlessness,
unable to open a wholesome
future to their children, choosing
to shatter hope with armaments.
after our expressions
of righteous indignation,
we turn to walk the sandy shore,
observe the reconfiguration
of the edges, trying to rise to a prayer:
we who have faith in a beyond
beyond the surface state of things
are called to simplicity: the lives of simple
earnest people is a ground for hope.
Here I am in my place of comfort,
with water, electricity, car serviced,
house warm, food in fridge, family safe.
the loop of news switched off
because it triggers an overwhelming
sadness and anger, inciting rage.
another day I light candles in church
for Sergie, Omar, Nikolai, Joshua,
Sasha, Natalie, Rebecca, Fatima
who share our hopes, and fears,
ground down by unresolved injustices
resisting being dehumanised by violence.
The energies of true religion
have never been so necessary, as now.
rituals of bowing and kneeling, then acting
before God, Allah, Yahweh,
and hands raised in supplication
for deliverance from all evil,
and a prayer
against the grain
for those who wish harm upon me.
and for myself I pray:
‘Do not let my enemy
bring me so low as to hate him...’.
leaders who need war to drive their world
have drawn a curse upon themselves
and on their people;
when they have finished
they leave a wasteland behind and call it peace,
oblivious to the irony of their project.
Can we hear the imperative of a Hebrew prophet?
voiced over 25 centuries ago
in the land once called ‘holy’;
can I, can we do this, here, now?
to draw the sting from hatred even as wars rage,
when despair wrestles with hope:
“what is good has been explained to you, humankind:
only this: to act justly to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God”.
by the after-storm beach, wave and wind calmer,
but shells smashed and seaweed heaped in humps,
there is a sweet odour from the soft centres
of mussel, razor, whelk, starfish.
nourishment for seabirds,
seaweed to fertilise the fields