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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


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