Prayer Work

Sometimes,
writing a poem in your head
and then releasing it
unremembered
is the most potent
form of prayer.

By Rebecca L. Atherton

Broken Things


 
There’s a hole in my stomach
that’s miles deep,
and a pain in my chest that feels like
something precious is unravelling.

I pull at the layers of flesh and skin
to reveal their true nature,
discovering a pit of molten fire
devouring a mound of wool.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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This Little Light

image

There is a way out of the forest;
I truly believe that.

And in the meantime,
I have my candle for light.

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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Yellow rose petals


I dream of school and find myself in a classroom, attempting to recall a language I used to know. Later, I stub my toe and although it is not hard enough to break it, it is enough to turn it black.

I don’t leave the flat and spend the morning being gentle – dusting, sweeping, tidying… and in-between I get more done than I have in months of going out.

If I were a bird, I would spread my wings and fly away. Human, I try to unpack my suitcase – endeavouring, at least for now, to embrace the place where I am stuck.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The underside of seldom-swept things

image
Visiting the underside of seldom-swept things,
I discover a toy soldier and a ball of yarn.
On the opposite side of the room,
there is a doll without legs and a forgotten sock.

A drawer reveals sellotape, blue tack and glue.
A cupboard: scissors and paper.
I sketch a house with two floors;
am told to add a basement and a loft.

While a woman makes dinner in the kitchen,
a man mows the lawn out back,
and although there are no children,
there is birdsong and plant-life.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Contemplating Jesus


Long day: early morning, late night; tired, always… Body struggling, mind malfunctioning; stomach empty and full. Baby crying, adult sighing; both unhappy still. Looking; searching. Finding: keeping. Sitting on and hiding away. Questions. Answers. Are there any? No! The future: heavy and dark. The past: burning and hot.

Talking of which: an enthusiastic oven, a metal dish, a bed of pitta, a tray of bread, a mind distracted by a labyrinth, a hand not paying enough, and suddenly a stigmata: rugged, red.

Contemplating Jesus, I sip tea, a coffee machine purring in the background; overlapping chatter and clatter, the room heady and thick. Regarding fresh toast, tomato, interchangeable eggs, jam, butter, avocados: I’m fighting the urge to steal. But it’s Sunday and God beckons; so it’s coat on and pen away, along with all bad thoughts and behaviour.

Moments later: a red priest, a white chaplain, a group of strangers; candles, incense, holly, baubles; collection packets, bibles, hymns books, service notes; a man playing the organ, another collecting stragglers, tea and cake around the corner – our reward. At the back, a play table – pens, pencils, colouring books… And yet there are no children, just me, longing to reach in and extract. Colour me purple, colour me pink; make me a mess in pen and ink.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Unto us a child is born

imageAching, breaking, feeling fragile; the pain in my side no weaker than it was four day ago: I’m contemplating the ‘walk-in’ on Wardour Street. But I’m scared. Sick people remind me of my own mortality, and it’s not so sturdy of late. Things hurt. Others don’t work anymore. And I’ve no idea whether the hurting and the not working are permanent or temporary. Each time we move, each time I suffer a trauma or am challenged and pushed: I slide, and the slope is dark and dangerous.

Looking up, I can still see the sky: a weak hollow of blue light, diluted and empty. No clouds. No planes. No sun. Just a thin strip stretching from left to right. Some days it’s brighter, more intense, and on days like these I draw comfort from it. Some days it’s dull and dead and on these days I sink to my knees and pray, for I have no energy, no motivation, no drive, and things as simple as walking and talking tire me.

Recently, it’s been up and down, bouncing me like a yo yo on thread. Nausea creeps into my belly to sit and sip, drinking tea and stretching out, acting (for all intents) as if it owns the place – which it doesn’t but which I could be convinced to believe it does, because it is such a frequent visitor I can’t now remember when it last went away.

Sitting in church yesterday – listening to the sermon but drifting, not really there… images of past lives, past people, past things… passing through: rewinding me, reminding me; picking at threads, fingering snarls, thumbing pulls, travelling bobbles; contemplating each and every one as if it were the most intimate, infinite thing: precious, priceless… I have an epiphany. And whether it makes any difference overall, or any sense in a day or a week: the warmth and the strength are a gift. Raising limp hands, separating joined wrists, pulling reluctant arms from lazy legs, I wrap myself around that feeling as tightly and securely as I can, hoping against hope, against experience, against knowledge and thought, that it won’t ever go away.

Only it will, and the only question that holds any importance is when? For if the answer disappoints, I will be devastated.

Today I am tired and the colour of the sky unnerves me. Yesterday there was reason to celebrate, to try to feel positive and upbeat. And I guess there was a break too, from the normal way of things. But now it’s back: the pressure, the expectation, the need… and I’m struggling. Feeling useless, uninspired; doubting my ability: I look at everything I’ve done – now and then, lately and a long time ago – and it all seems so shallow and incomplete.

Doubt descends and I sink: deeper and deeper. And the slope down which I was slipping is no longer just a slope; it’s also part of the sea, and I am drowning too.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Snowmen in winter

imageBetter the devil you know than the prince you are chasing after. Better the life you have than the future you would like to arrive. Birds in the hand are worth more than mammals in the distance. Eggs more reliable assets than chickens down the line.

Thank God for what you have and count your lucky stars. Let absence take care of what is missing and providence provide. Tread softly around others, be mindful of their dreams. Give what you can to the less fortunate, take only what you need from those who can provide.

Think big, stand tall, set goals, climb skyscrapers. Plan ahead, take action, share often, do more. Walk with courage, run with enthusiasm, sit down with dignity, sleep with pride. Love each season as if it were the only one available. Embrace all weather, as if it were all there were.

Build snowmen in winter. Plant daisies in spring. Pick apples in summer. Make fires in fall. Smile at those who hurt you, laugh with those who don’t. Listen to your elders, teach your youth. Show those who are searching, lead them who would like to learn. Imagine it all different, then get up and take a turn.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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