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From Psalm 119

Gimel/Retribue servo tuo

O do well unto thy servant

Vincible world, I see blown blossom
hurled with the crumpled rooks before May’s
impertinent, spooky breezes; newly-dressed
branches rattled already before
counter-prevalent and centrifuge gusts.

Vincible earth, no stranger to kenosis, then;
it’s what you do. I can’t arrive at saying it.

I’m lip-deep in the unsayable, (don’t you know?)
dealing out, let’s say, deuteranopic cusses
to a space and time all-too-green, in fact,
to observe Coverdale’s green observations
in the bright shadows of Hebrew’s plenty.

Lip-labour for our vincible domain
in the light and shadow of opulence.


He/Legem pone

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes

Prayer’s printed page whitens out of seeing;
self-divesting, and on the run, leaked
in a voiced extinction, even as the fire
among the thorns,
_                            its bright dereliction
without self-favour, but spoiling
immarcescibly into faith’s erasures;
a pale palimpsest, even Cranmer’s gift.

My page is blinded. Its tongue is stolen.
God’s syntax is glass, o! cerulean
titmouse! It’s entropy’s hard vacancy.
Don’t be caught,
_                            songbird iconoclast!
not in time’s continuum, but before
untimely Abraham. Good philosopher,
teach us the way of thy statutes.


Yodh/Manus tuae fecerunt me

Thy hands have made me and fashioned me

It’s the waiting. Waiting for the form
of a hand, in likeness as the appearance
of fire, from Ezekiel’s amber chambers.

There in the nonsense, today, of my roustabout
apple trees and oak, the willow next door,
though not the form of a fiery, friendly hand.

It would all be too easy. There’d be no need
for Empson’s monstrously clotted language –
antagonyms of faith in affliction.

Swelling with the skittery breezes, willow
is no open hand but clutched then hurling,
yes, a likeness as the appearance of fire.

And, monstrously clotted, Ezekiel wavers
into afflicted speech, and this faithful, fiery hand.

Sections of Psalm One Hundred and Nineteen have also found a home in Scintilla journal. Poems from An Atheist’s Prayer-Book are forthcoming at Litter. Reviews have appeared at Litter, and at Stride. A PhD, Natural Strange Beatitudes, can be found at www.pearl.plymouth.ac.uk. Jonathan Wooding has spoken at academic conferences in Plymouth, Oxford and York on the poetry of Geoffrey Hill. 

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