The Light Is Not A Solemn Thing, It Shines

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for Sarah

*

The light is not a solemn thing, it shines

With merry glee and mirthful gentleness

Will not be held a hostage, in confines

Of darkened halls where little ones confess

The sins of fathers that they never chose

Nor be a slave to chapter, scripture, verse

Be boundaried, or fettered in its flows

It is the joy of blessing, not a curse

It isn’t how you said it was.  You lied

I ran, and left your lies behind the door

And here I am, and oh, the light is wide

Mysterious, and infinite, and more

A wildly wilful, free, and feisty thing

I wear a ribbon in my hair, and sing

*

© Gail Foster 26th February 2017

This sonnet was written for my friend Sarah, who left the Plymouth Brethren.  In accordance with the Brethren’s belief in the Doctrine of Separation, those who have left are no longer allowed contact with their friends or families.  In recent years former members have developed the custom of writing their loved ones’ names on yellow ribbons as a symbol of love and remembrance.

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Many Mansions; for Sister David Lewis

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Photograph of Sister David Lewis reproduced by kind permission of Scott Coleman

Sister David Lewis taught for many years at St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Devizes in Wiltshire, and will be remembered by many with affection and gratitude. 

*

I’m crying for a Catholic nun

Who once was kind to me

As I sat there in my miniskirt

Bad mother, C of E

“Sister David, the police came round

And battered down the door”

“Well, do you know, my dear,” she said

“I’ve heard that one before”

And she blessed me, without blinking

With a smile on her face

And I knew I was forgiven

Hail Mary, full of grace

And I can hear as clear as day

The words she said to me

“In my father’s house, my dear,

There many mansions be”

*

© Gail Foster 29th December 2016

 

What’s it about for you, then?

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What’s it about for them, then

Loneliness, poverty, pain

Bang of the bailiff at the door

Death in a ditch in the rain

What is it like for the Joneses

Bigger and better you think

Posh port and pigs in blankets

Sick in the kitchen sink

What’s it about for him, then

A clock, and an empty chair

Picture of her on the mantelpiece

Candle smoke curls in the air

What is it like for her, do you think

Hairdo and heels and hurrah

Hampers and champers from Harrods

Packed in to Daddy’s car

What’s it about for the Christians

Return of the sacred child

Under a star in a stable bare

Jesus, meek and mild

What is it like for the Druids, then

Stood in the circle at dawn

Frost on the moss on frozen stone

Lit by the sun reborn

What’s it about for the children

Mysterious, glittery, bright

Hope of a mythic benevolence

Come as a thief in the night

 …

What is it like for us, then

Rushing and spending and stressing

Cursing the souls in the queue at the till

Kissing a friend with a blessing

 …

What will it be like for you, then

What will you will it to be

Riotous ostentation, or

Peace and sweet charity

 …

What it’s about for me is this

One white and holy dove

The silence after the shops have shut

And love

 *

© Gail Foster 3rd December 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bride’s Mound; for Kathy Hope

Bride's Mount

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Up on Bride’s Mound, where the sky meets the ground

Circle wheels within wheels, on a blue winter day

Child of the trees, of the stars and the breeze

How much we love her and want her to stay

Waft of incense on air, words of ritual prayer

Gentleness, blessing, children at play

They who confessed her, who laid out and dressed her

Scattering acorns, wormwood, and bay

No dark corner spared in the memories shared

Of the pain that she had before finding her way

Rivers of sound, through the harp, through the ground

Diluting the darkness, dissolving dismay

Herein is forgiving; the dead and the living

Made fresh by the scent of a rosemary spray

Such redemption and peace, in her final release

Leave us free to remember and love as we may

We are all of us here; she has nothing to fear

Her spirit has gone from the bier where she lay

As together we stand, on this green hallowed land

Holding dear Kathy Hope as we love her away

*

by Gail

Harriet’s Gift

For Harriet, and for Devizes; a poem for Advent

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Today, my dear friend Harriet gave to me

A tiny glittery nativity

Like Russian dolls, the size of half a thumb

A tiny Joseph Dad and Mary Mum

And Jesus, smaller than a fingernail

Such tiny things to tell so grand a tale

And as she pressed them in my hand her eyes

So bright and hopeful, old and kind and wise

Were simply brimming with that shining light

That fuelled the star that lit that mystic night

Some weeks ago, she gifted me a stone

Found on a beach where she had walked alone

All gold and smooth from rolling ocean’s wear

For me to hold in moments of despair

And there were candles then, that she had lit

Upon the table where we sometimes sit

And then, like now, I very nearly cried

So touched by all the love she has inside

If only love and Christmas were like this

All simple joy, delight and friendly kiss

All gentleness, all light and subtle sheen

Like all the things in her that I have seen

I wish you joy, like Harriet wishes me

A Christmas full of love; all blesséd be

*

by Gail