Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Anthropological Turn

A fist of lightning sunders the packed cloud
On Sinai’s peak; thunder engulfs the slopes;
Moses, exultant with the Tables, browed
With light, descends to mould men’s fears and hopes:
Moral truth is given and hence endowed
Is beauty – golden cherubim and tropes
Adorn the Ark. A proud propitiating
People is created, lacking but one thing.

The Nazarene, transfixed with the Divine,
On Shabbat day completes the Torah’s lack:
“Stretch forth thy hand” – a flesh-transcending sign                   
Is given, pity more flagrant than God’s back
Seen by Moses in the cloud. Like sweet-scent wine
Compassion infuses dogs-in-a-pack                                         
Humanity, and though men riot like fools                                   
Their wounds are bound by hospitallers and schools.

Later, the harmonic circle is smashed:
Vaunting men, in love with experiment,
Scrub Revelation’s face until it’s washed
Raw. Diderot’s book swells to a testament,
Newton by the sea of knowledge is splashed,
Paine’s pot of rights boils to a sacrament;
Hume demands freedom to die in his sins;
In France the clash of guillotines begins.

The wheel turns. A Sixties scientist re-presents
The fruit; Eve swallows and fecundity
Is balked. Man centres self and the ornaments      
Of being are smashed in a futility
Of drugged desires. Harsh New Age hierophants          
Propose fault-free fulfilment and absurdity                          
Is raised a god. Two thousand years of symbols                                
Are overthrown by dancers beating timbrels.

Destruction triumphs. Pornography swamps
The internet; man’s primal itch inflamed,
Aggression surges and motel room romps                                 
Turn rapes. Enthused, unnatural rights are named –
Gay marriage, gender choice – what tawdry pomps!               
Careerist women have the boardroom tamed;               
Children are objects, abortion’s in demand:
Moloch counts dollars with a blood-stained hand.                     

Saint Damien sweats in Hawaii’s heat,
Dressing ulcers, digging graves. The leper priest,
In the eternal wrapt, with bandaged feet,
Scarred face and dragging legs, dies for the least
Of his charges. There’s no despair, nor bleat
Of woe, instead a pure-eyed grasp of the feast
Of being. Fulfilment’s not in drugs or vice
But in hands gone leprous in sacrifice.

© April 2013. Revised June 2016


  1. An interesting poem that contrasts Christendom and the life of a saint to the puerile existence of today's post modern world.

  2. It works as a poem of the kind you intend it to be. There is nothing superfluous. Essentially, it is a set of statements of fact. Though I no longer share the faith that drives it, I am drawn to the poem's truth. Some of the phrasing is very telling, and is what will remain with me.