He Attempts to Explain His Religion, a poem by Mark J Mitchell

He Attempts to Explain His Religion

That the mystery is masked
is given. Names are tried on and discarded.
No one name will answer.

A breeze might brush your face,
just after sunset on the equinox, say.
It leaves a mark, a scar.

No ritual can bring that back,
with its kiss of dangerous knowledge.
The mark is always invisible on your face.

Each day you watch the breeze of your breath
and try to tune your hollow soul
so that mystery can play you like a flute.

© Mark J. Mitchell

lives in San Francisco, CA. He is walking a Zen path through his Catholic heritage.

The Imagined Abbey, a poem by Iris Anne Lewis

The Imagined Abbey

Canons, cowled in black,
process down the dorter stairs
for nine psalms and lessons.

The crescent moon is waning,
stars gutter like anaemic flame
that soon will be snuffed out.

Only the morning star
is unwavering, steadfast
in its promise of impending dawn.

Lauds

In the shadowed Lady Chapel
beeswax candles burn
around the Blessed Virgin.
She is luminous with grace.

The cantor tastes the honeyed smoke,
transmutes its sweetness into song.

Prime

Abbot, clerics, laity, townsfolk
crowd the abbey church,
face the Eastern window
as day breaks dark to dusk.

Dormant in the glass,
the tree of Jesse,
tenebrous as forest pines
in winter.
Beneath its branches,
hidden figures lurk.

The sky blossoms into rose.
The window blazes into life.
Jesse’s tree grows green, fresh
as apple orchards in the spring.
Translucent saints in red, purple,
royal blue, give benediction.

At the apex,
in amber gold and white,
the Risen Christ
in numinous simplicity
of light.

© Iris Anne Lewis

lives in Kempsford, Gloucestershire. ‘The Imagined Abbey’ was written in response to Abbey 900, a festival in Cirencester celebrating the founding of its Augustinian Abbey.

Dragonfly, a poem by Don Thompson

Dragonfly

A solitary dragonfly hovers
only for a second and then jigs
like a hand-tied lure on filament:
It could be God the fisherman
getting my attention,

not to set a hook
in my distracted forgetfulness,
not to filet my soul
for having ignored Him for so long,
but to catch and release me

back into the world, startled,
but just a bit more alert
and aware of where I am—
almost as alive in the moment
as an insect.

© Don Thompson

lives in Buttonwillow, California.

Wings, a poem by Mab Jones

Wings

You felt them first as a murmur of air – God’s
breath at your back, whispering bone
into stalks that furled through flesh.

The tingle of your scapula told you it was true,
though nobody saw them, not even as the feathers
plumed, strong and white as teeth, fanning out

from the limbs – a sweet-pain, ripening
to pleasure, knowing you were becoming
what was intended, intentioned – that Hand

fashioning you as it had the earth’s first bird;
holding you firm, as you forgot what you’d
known, and plunged out into the dark.

© Mab Jones

lives in Pontypridd, Wales. She was not raised in any religion so is interested in all. As well as poet she is also an energy worker / healer.

The preacher in prison asks for a coat, a poem by Julian Dobson

The preacher in prison asks for a coat

I never knew how cold
could rip through sleep. This cell is slimy.
I’ve hauled myself through worse, Lord knows –
waterboarded, spat at, kidnapped.

Execution doesn’t make me shiver.
Limbo rattles me. I write,
letter upon letter. Who knows
who might decipher them? Days trudge past

when I remember rocks, magnesium sun
on desert roads, that beyond-possible light.
Now my vision’s fogged. So much
of what I think I see is through dark glass.

They lend me books. It makes no odds
what a non-person reads.
My legs seep where the shackles rub.
My body itches under orange.

I embroider thoughts, refract my gaze
beyond these walls. When I write
my stuttering chatter grows wide wings.
They wonder at my courage.

I once sang in a cell like this. The walls
shook. Momentarily the guards
believed. Now I’m the one who trembles.
I left a winter coat – please, bring it with you.

© Julian Dobson

lives in Sheffield, England, and is constantly being surprised on his journey of Christian discovery. He has contributed a number of poems to Ground.

Update, Feb 2017, and an excerpt from Les Murray

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, plants, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.

From a short poem by Les Murray published in Poems the Size of Photographs, and also on the author’s own website: 2002 www.lesmurray.org/pm_tme.htm

Update – what’s going on at Ground?

First, thank you to those who have submitted poems and are still waiting for a reply. I will reply this week and may be able to publish some of them. There are also a couple of poems already accepted and scheduled to appear later in the year.

Ground is not currently accepting new submissions. I apologise that what was intended to be a short break has become an extended one. Over the next few weeks (after adapting the design so it can be viewed correctly on smartphones) I plan to add to the site a number of classic poems, and excerpts from contemporary and twentieth century poems which are still copyright, while I continue to mull over the future of the magazine. I’m also planning to make it easier to browse previous contributions and additions by author and theme. There’s such a richness on the site already, and I’m more than grateful to all who have contributed.
If you have any thoughts about Ground’s future, feel free to add comments below or on our Facebook page, or to email me.

Chris Fewings, Editor
19 Feb 2017

An apology to mobile users

The web designer’s lot is not a happy one. I can’t see directly what you see on your screen, which may be a different size and shape to the ones I have. Your device may impose a different font from the one I intended. I don’t know whether or not you will magnify the font. I can’t predict where you expect to find links.

Any feedback you have on reading poems (or using the forms) on Ground is gratefully received – particularly if you just can’t see the poem properly. To be helpful, you need to say what device you are using – ideally this will include the model, but the main thing is to know if it’s iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, Mac PC, Windows PC, etc.

I have been lackadaisical this year in keeping up with changes in technology as they affect the site, but I was forced to do an update yesterday, and will follow through. This will take some time. For the time being, the site is best read on a tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

We are asked to draw God, a poem by Hilary Hares

We are asked to draw God

Andrew draws a stick man with a beard,
Rupert tries out a donkey with a cross.

Phoebe has done an angel with a halo
and a cloud. I stare at my empty page.

Do you need help? Miss Fossett asks.
I shake my head.

Andrew hands in his stick man with a beard,
Rupert his scribbled donkey with a cross.

Phoebe goes up with her angel and its cloud,
although already glitter’s coming off.

I sign the bottom of my empty page,
pass it across.

Heavens above, there’s no-one there,
Miss Fossett says.

© Hilary Hares

Hilary Hares lives in Farnham, England. Although she has her doubts, she also believes that faith can move mountains.

Mountain Top, a poem by Jennie Owen

Mountain Top

I came to meet you,
knuckles corrugated
over brown leather and smudge print.

I’d packed you away in a stained glass box,
wrapped in wafers
so your edges did not slice,

so the sour couldn’t go down my throat
with the blood.

I came back here to meet you again
but there is no glowing face,
just scuffed knees and worn velvet.

No answers and when I look down,
my hands are bones.

© Jennie Owen

Jennie Owen lives in Mawdesley, England.