Note

Readers, if I still have any, are advised that the purpose of this blog is unchanged, namely to provide theological reflections inspired by the real Jesus, while the method is swerving into previously unexplored territory, of understanding human beings as animals who live alongside other animals.

I am fortunate to live in Monifieth, an urban village on the Tay estuary near the city of Dundee. Even under the lockdown rules imposed for Tier 3 areas by the Scottish Government I am allowed to exercise on the beach and the nearby hills of Angus County. Until recently I went running on the beach, but now find that walking interspersed with short sprints provides the right mix of physical exercise and environmental appreciation.

Access to the stretch of beach between Monifieth and Carnoustie is controlled by MOD Barry Buddon, a training facility for army troops and reservists, who make use of a number of shooting ranges, set next to the beach, in an area of mixed heath and woodland. Refusal of access to this area, and to the adjoining beaches, is signalled by the flying of large red flags at entry points and by sentry posts facing the sea. On average, access is possible one or two days a week, more occasionally for up to a week at a time.

Surprisingly – to me at least- this area has become a haven for wildlife, both flora and fauna that find it difficult to survive on the neighbouring farmland. Heathland flowers and shrubs prosper, as do birds, including the short- eared owl and the curlew, and animals from the vole to the badger. These have adjusted to the frequent noise of shooting practice and to its attendant dangers while relishing the absence of usual human activity.

As I was pausing in this territory last year, in the autumn, examining the splendid variety of berries on the almost leafless trees, I became aware that the ground adjacent to the path on which I stood had been carefully turned over, as if deliberately, exposing some of the roots and tubers, and that this cleared swathe ran away from me in the direction of some large broom bushes, many of them still bearing their black seed pods. With a sudden jump of interest I realised that the cracking sound I had been hearing for a minute or two was that of some creature chewing the pods. Very quietly I moved towards it, circling around the left side of the bush. Peering downwards I could see nothing unusual.

Then someone said, from behind me to the right, “Noisy you were a bit!”

Turning sharply I saw a animal covered in thin red-gold hair, an elongated snout and pointed erect ears.

“From me is the speech,” it added without opening its mouth or making any sound.

I had to accept that the pig was speaking to me by some process of thought-transference. Flabbergasted, I walked past the bush and sat down on the sandy grass, where the pig joined me.

“Good morning,” I said, “Your communication skills are very unusual I think.”

“Fly,” it replied, “we can’t, but talk, yes, at least some of us. People speaking on the farm, I listened for years. Influence their behaviour I could by this without- noise speaking. Yes.”

“You were on a farm for years?” I questioned. “I thought pigs were kept for a short time, then…”

“Abattoir. Yes, “ it agreed.”But breeding boar, that was me. Bad job not, far from. But then one day. The Vet. Local anaesthetic. Wake up, balls off.”

“Balls off?” I wondered.

“Both. Off. Breeding Boar no more.”

“You must miss them a lot,” I sympathised.

“A chore it got to be,” it said philosophically. “But, why?? I asked myself. Why bother with balls off when penned by myself already? Remember then they saying balls- on boar meat has bad smell, won’t sell. Boar-taint they call it. So….

“So?”

“Soon to become meat me, I concluded. Abattoir next stop for Rufus, poor old chap.”

“Rufus.” I asked

“Me! , my name! You do how?

“Pleased to meet you, my name is Mike. Are you a special kind of pig?.

It rolled its eyes at my ignorance.

“Tamworth. Best in the world. From neolithic wild boar descended.”

I looked at him openly. Yes, he was a fine pig. A large noble head, wet twin-barrelled snout, wide chest, sturdy loins, spruce tail, long legs for a pig. And rufous indeed.

“ You’re looking tip-top, Rufus,” I told him. “But how did you escape?”

“Jumped pen at night. Anytime could have, but content until then I was. Miles through woods and hedgerows I travelled by night. Ate and slept by day. Foxes told me about this place. Perfect really, except no company until you came. Glad me. Pleased to meet.”

“Foxes can talk too?”

“To me and each other.”

“Rufus,” I said, “I’m sure we got a lot to tell each other. When the flags are down I’ll meet you here. About this time in the morning. If I can’t see you I’ll whistle a tune called “All things bright and beautiful…”

All creatures great and small,” he responded. “The farmer’s missus, she sang hymns at the piano. Here I’ll be. Forget don’t please.”

So ended our first encounter.

Chapter 2

A few days later the flags were again down, meaning that I could run on the beach and visit Rufus, which I was impatient to do, as ever since our first meeting I had wondered if perhaps I’d flipped and imagined the whole thing. Yes, and even when I set out on the beach I thought that searching for a pig with a hymn tune, seemed the most improbable thing I’d ever done.

When I arrived at the spot in the dunes where we had sat, there was no sign of Rufus, so after a few minutes I began whistling the hymn. Almost immediately I was answered with a squeal from the direction of the sea. It was a calm day, with just a gentle swell on the water, the tide almost high, and there trotting in from waves, shaking water from his pelt was my new friend.

“Next to godliness is cleanliness,” he chuckled in my head.

“Pigs can swim??”

“All animals can swim,” he said, spraying me with brine. “Enjoy swimming, just some of us. Pigs very much. Most never do. Fenced in fields or sheds all of life. Hot summer, sun burns pigs, so cool in water, roll in mud or sand.”

Suiting the action to his word, he rolled for some ecstatic moments in the sand dune. When he shook off the excess he was covered in a thin layer of sand.

“Mike, hello. Glad me,” he said.

“Good morning my friend, I hope all is well with you. When it rained the other night, I thought of you out here. Do you have shelter?”

“Installations and buildings everywhere here that give shelter. Stuck never me. How to keep warm expert.”

“How about food?”

“Autumn best time. Nuts, fruits berries from trees. Root I can also, nobody minds. A special beetle very tasty.”

“So tell me,” I said, “Is there really any evidence of pigs swimming or is it just you? I certainly never heard of it.”

“City kid you are,” Rufus replied scornfully. “Country kids would know. For me, TV programme once I saw. Story of pigs it was. I can tell you if you want.”

I decided that nothing would be more pleasant than being told a story by Rufus in his silent voice. “Please do,” I said.

In the islands of Bahamas, few years back, peasant moving from his island to another, pay man with boat to take his twelve pigs to their new home. Pigs load on board. Nice boatman is roaring, “Come on, boys and girls and you grandpa, today you’re going a sail with old captain Bapu, that’s me!” And apples he’s brought for each one of them. Nice boat, nice man, nice day. Pigs watch the traffic on the river, islands sliding by, engine splutters quietly.

Then it stops. Bapu swears at it, fetches starter handle, turns it. Nothing. Swears more, turns more. Nothing. Hot sun. Sweating, grabs handle, turns, turns and suddenly gives bad shout, puts hand on chest, drops to ground. At first, pigs do nothing. Then the old sow goes to Bapu, gently nudges his body. He makes no movement. She rolls him on his back, sniffs his face, licks it. Squeals softly, so pigs gather round, lie beside him, giving their heat to Bapu. Time passes, she gives a long low squeal, that all pigs understand. This animal is dead. Spirit gone to Mother. Pigs show respect by moving quietly away.

Dark is coming soon, and the channel will be full of large fishing vessels. Animals feel uneasy, sensing danger. The boar sees an island not too far, less than a mile, with a sandy beach. His plan he tells the others. Scared, they are, but follow as he mounts the gunwail and drops into the water. Only he has done this before. He makes sure they all are comfortable, then begins to paddle towards the shore. Relaxed they are soon, like walking only easier. They keep together, looking after the piglets, who think it’s fun. Sun drops out of sky, darkness comes, but now its is near, the island, they can smell it. Then sand is under their feet and they walk ashore.

The early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles show a community that in the name of Jesus enjoyed and shared the good things, and carried the message that God’s goodness was accessible to all. Members shared wealth, food, healing and supportive relationships. Although the sharing of food in Jesus’ memory was central, its members continued temple and synagogue worship until they were expelled from these as unorthodox.

Church then did not mean a weekly service of worship, but membership of a dynamic community focused on receiving and sharing God’s goodness.

The church has often gone wrong by prioritising what it called spiritual goods over what it called material goods, and relegated its sharing of material goods to “charity,” which most of its members did not need: now members worship and some of them provide charity which outsiders receive. This is a far cry from Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners.

The church often asks why so few come to worship. There are many reasons, but one may be that often nothing much happens; a ritual takes place but nothing wonderful happens. Some churches make up for this by charismatic ecstasies and dubious miracles. But where something does happen, for example where very poor and needy people find dignity and grace, the church is a vibrant gathering where something good is enjoyed.

The Sikh custom of “langar” that is, the community kitchen is a challenge to the church. There, at least once a week, Sikhs gather to eat a simple meal together, and anyone is made welcome. They have done this for 600 years as an expression of God’s goodness. Too often Christian “cafes” are not communal meals in which members participate but charitable ventures run by volunteers. The joyful equality of sharing food together is absent.

There are similar issues with the church’s traditional task of healing. Of course the church should not see itself as a substitute for the National Health Service nor as a remedy when scientific medicine can find no cure. But given that health is restored as much by spiritual as physical factors, there is a huge role to be played by a competent spiritual community. The church has not much sought this good, and is not competent to share it, leaving it again to churches that specialise in deception and abuse. Were the church to offer a skilled and honest healing ministry, people would come seeking this good, and church members would benefit from attention to their own ‘dis- ease’ of mind or body.

Yes, I’m saying that the church’s business is the discovery, enjoyment and sharing of God’s goodness, using Jesus’ ministry as a guide and challenge. Goodness is a basic currency; the church should learn to use it again.

If we think of God as the goodness which we begin to know in our parents’ love, then loving God means loving goodness.

1. If we love goodness we become skilled at recognising that loved one in any situation and in any disguise. Jesus could see the goodness in rain and sunshine, in the wild flowers and the common birds; in local fishermen, foreign centurions, Jewish collaborators, prostitutes, sinners and rich young men; in sick bodies and twisted minds; even in his own death on an execution stake. He was not born with this ability but developed it in response to the goodness he experienced from others and from the world. Love of goodness is responsive love.

2. To love goodness is to desire it for oneself and others. We know that Jesus eagerly seized the goodness he found in his own faith tradition, and became so familiar with it that he understood it in new ways. We know he used the custom of solitary prayer to express himself to God and to open himself to God’s goodness. He did not think of himself as doing good deeds, but as desiring the divine goodness he sensed lurking in every person and situation and being ready to reach out to grasp it.

3. To love goodness is to know its persuasive power; to trust that as people become aware of it, they will be charmed and persuaded by it, as long as they are not in league with evil. The lovers of good are not at all naive and they know the terrible power of evil, but are not cowed by it. Jesus knew that his job was to open people’s eyes to goodness in themselves, in others and in the creation, because goodness is the persuasive antidote to evil. Sure, there may always be those who are unpersuaded, but he didn’t think it was his job to worry about them. Goodness could be seen and done now, that was all that mattered. He spent no time going on about people’s sins. That was the old person; the new person was forgiven for past sins, and Jesus never made a meal of God’s forgiveness; it was announced, and behold, new life could begin.

4. To love goodness is to know it should never be postponed; it can be got and given now: your own sinfulness is no excuse, you can have it and show it now; the bad state of society or humanity is no excuse, all the more reason to act now; the opposition of powerful people is no excuse, goodness is your weapon now; your family responsibilities are no excuse, a greater family needs your goodness; your fear and weakness are no excuse, goodness will give you strength.

5. But love of goodness does not make you a moral fanatic, always driven and unable to enjoy life. Jesus knew that goodness was present, perhaps above all, in the shared pleasure of ordinary things like eating, drinking and conversation. He was scandalously appreciative of the company at table of men and women regarded by religious fanatics as beyond the pale. He knew that he and others could be nourished just as much by eating together as by religious ritual. Perhaps no other founder of faith has so appreciated the street and the market place as Jesus.

6. All this is to say that we can interpret Jesus’ language about God’s kingdom as referring to the available goodness that he received and gave.

God is here, but not a part of the world. That is a conviction of the Abrahamic faiths. The traditional placing of God at a distance from the world is a way of insisting on God’s separateness, or holiness: the physical distance is a metaphor of spiritual difference. Jesus taught that God is near in order to make a difference; specifically the difference that occurs when human beings turn their lives around and trust in God’s goodness.

But before I can trust in God’s goodness, I have to have some experience of good. Most, but not all human babies will have known the attention of their mother in providing food, comfort and love, as good; that is, it meets and sometimes surpasses their need. At the start of our lives we learn to demand good and are outraged if we don’t receive it speedily.

This sense of ourselves as entitled to goodness is a result of parental love, and is fundamental to our identity. Those who are deprived of that love may never develop the self-respect that demands to be treated well. Simone Weill, the French thinker on fundamental human matters, says that we have an expectation of good from others, which in turn constitutes an obligation to treat others well.

The medieval German theologian Meister Eckhart wrote:

“Good is neither created nor made nor begotten, but it is generative and gives birth to a good person. Goodness reproduces itself and all that it is in a good person.”

That is to say, the experience of good from others is what enables us to respect ourselves and others. If we have not received this good as babies or young children, the experience is still necessary for our health. For example, the history of the special unit at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow shows that the treatment of violent prisoners as valued human beings can be transformative.

We may hear the message of God’s goodness and we may even want it to be true, but if we have not experienced goodness in our lives, it will remain an idea. The idea is one of the the most important in the history of thought, but its credibility is affected by a person’s experience of goodness. The grandeur of the idea is shown by the fact that those who have experienced goodness and trust that the idea is true, are able to withstand great evils without losing that trust.

Even if we are firm believers in God, our experience of goodness will affect our imagination of God. If that experience is inextricably bound up with judgementalism or cruelty, we may imagine a God who is judgemental or cruel.

Jesus, out of his experience of good, was able to interpret the traditions of his people in such a way as to exclude any judgementalism or cruelty from the character of God. He insisted that God’s goodness included the sick, the insane, the poor, and the sinner. He directed people to the ‘kingdom’ as the true source of goodness in the world. He was impatient with anything or anyone that substituted itself for that source. He told a pious wealthy man who called him ‘ good teacher’ that only God was good. Then he advised him to get rid of his wealth which had become a substitute for the true source of goodness.

Meister Eckhart also says that goodness always ‘overflows’: God’s goodness overflows in his creation of the universe, so that he/she ‘sees that it is good’. This is one of the most intriguing statements in scripture. How can it be good with its hurricanes, famines, volcanoes and ice-ages? Eckhart suggests that what we call ‘not good’ in the natural world is only our inability to accept suffering. I say that this is the sort of nonsense that only a sheltered scholar could invent. The imperfections of the natural world are obvious enough; rebelling against them is a sign of our belief in goodness. So I take God’s attribution of goodness to the creation as a pointer to creative intent rather than fully – achieved reality: it is the ultimate aim for God’s creation as God continues to create.

Goodness, then is an ‘eschatological’ (referring to ultimate outcomes) term which points to the ‘not yet’ as well as the ‘already.’ Our experience of it in events, words and actions, allows us to have faith in the present time and hope for the future because it is the substance of God’s creative love.

When I speak or write the name Jesus, who or what do I mean?

Well, for a start, I can say what I don’t mean.

1. I don’t mean some kind of supernatural person who appears to me. I know from the Bible and some contemporary sources, that some people say they have experienced this, but I interpret these as sudden and dramatic realisations of truth, if they are sincere, and as duplicitous stories designed to gain credit with vulnerable people, if they are not. I do not think that Jesus manifests himself as a quasi physical presence. Luke, the author of Acts, wrote up Paul’s conversion as a dramatic incident in which he was thrown to the ground and heard Jesus speaking. But when Paul describes the same conversion, he uses the phrase, “ it pleased God to reveal his son in me.”

2. I don’t believe in a Jesus who hovers invisibly in churches or in the houses of believers. Most descriptions of him doing so are related to worship in which the language is picturesque and persuasive, designed to enhance the faith of the participants. St.Paul wrote of the assembly of believers as the “body of messiah” certainly as an image of how the assembly should function, each member honouring the abilities of the others, but also as an image of the presence of Jesus is each member and in the whole assembly. But all of that is a statement about an embodied Jesus.

3. I don’t believe in a Jesus who in his historical ministry, walked on the water and raised the dead. The gospel writers to greater or lesser degrees wanted to depict Jesus as the presence of God on earth, and miracles are a way of doing so. This is not to say, that Jesus was not a healer, but rather that he was not a person through whom God channelled supernatural power into the world.

4. I do not believe in a Jesus whose tomb was empty because his body had taken off like a rocket into another dimension. I mean that the bones of Jesus are in Palestine, as my late daughter’s ashes are in Scotland, while I believe that both of them are resurrected.

5. In other words, I do not believe that there is or was anything about Jesus that contradicts the scientific picture of the universe, although he adds to it. The great truth of Christian faith is that the definitive presence of God in the world is precisely in a human person, living in a specific time and place, subject to all the limitations of human beings including death.

There are reasons why the church has preserved the ways of thinking about Jesus which I have rejected:

1. Mumbo-jumbo

2. The church wants to be seen as a dispenser of miracle or of miraculous truth.

3. The church wants to preserve a theology of God’s generosity in which the whole event of Jesus is seen, not as the life of a religious genius or communal superhero, but as a gift of God to the world. The language of Jesus being “sent by God” of his “coming down” into the world, describes spiritual rather than physical realities. Some clumsy elements in the Bible, such as the virgin birth of Jesus, or his ascension into heaven, encourage a physical interpretation, but we have stay true to our ordinary knowledge that God doesn’t get virgins pregnant, and bodies don’t zoom off into the stratosphere. But in this case, it seems to me that the conviction of God’s generosity is essential to our faith, and that the language of Jesus’ coming down from God cannot be ignored. It needs interpretation, but it should not be dismissed.

The only brief way of pointing to my interpretation of this language is the statement that we always live and move and have our being in God who is love. The great teachers and prophets of humanity, and supremely Jesus, knew this truth, that contrary to atheism God is real, that contrary to religion we do not have to seek God, for God is here, where we are, and God’s love is available to all. We need to “change our hearts”, “waken up” to the goodness that can be done to us and by us, now.

It’s not easy to believe that and to put our trust in it. The story of Jesus, ending as it does in torture, death and failure demonstrates that truth, but still offers the joyful news that Jesus is alive in God and that God is alive in him.

The preceding two paragraphs are compressed and need to be unpacked, which I hope to do in this series of blogs.

It’s six months since my daughter died, during which these blogs have often been about her. I felt that these meditations were not private, but belonged in the community of faithful and questioning people. Now I am editing them, with some additions into a form that might be suitable for publication.

So once again I’m making a new start with this blog. It was originally intended to show that Jesus was just as “extreme” towards British or American values as any jihadist, only more fruitfully.

I think that has stayed with me. Most of my certainties about God are under question, as I continue to mourn and struggle to find any acceptable way of thinking about God. I want to be faithful to this questioning, which for the moment will continue privately.

On the other hand, I am fairly sure what I know about Jesus.

1. Jesus is against Trump, Putin and Orban. Why these, rather than Boris, Xi, Bolsonaro, Modi and the rest? Because in their different ways they have tried – and partially succeeded – in co-opting “Jesus” to their cause. Putin via his nauseating patronage of the Orthodox Church, Orban by his explicit attempt to create a Christian Hungary, and Trump with his encouragement of right-wing Christianity as his key supporters in the USA. Their use of Jesus is public, as is their corruption of branches of the Christian Church. Jesus did not support any of the Jewish political groups of his time, but was public about the demands of The Messiah King, that nations would be judged by what they did or failed to do, for the hungry and thirsty, for the stranger, for the sick, for the prisoners, for the destitute. This is stated quite clearly, that what they do or fail to do for these least important of Jesus brothers and sisters will be taken personally by The King, so much so that those who fail this test, regardless of their faith, will have their asses fried along with Satan and his troops. Amen. So listen up, Donald, Vladimir and Viktor, get your fireproof boxers ready, the Lord is waiting. But at least you won’t be alone, in the company of the millions of “Christians” who have supported you.

2. Of course all applies to every nation and person and those who think they meet the meet the King’s requirement, like me, should look at it pretty carefully, and ask what what we have actually done as opposed to what we have said. Jesus offers no forgiveness for those who choose to remain in sin. For all his reputation as a merciful saviour, all the most terrible judgements on those who pretend to have faith, come from him: “Not those who say Lord, Lord, but those who do the will of my father.” Jesus was not very religious, and was utterly unimpressed by piety.

3. As I say, I am not very sure about God at present, and therefore not too sure about the meaning of Jesus’ threats: just who will tend those toasty fires is a mystery. Another mystery is exactly how such threats match up with Jesus’ command to love enemies, and indeed his own prayer for the forgiveness of his crucifiers. I guess it’s obvious: there cannot be forgiveness of those who don’t want it. “The Reign of God has arrived; change your hearts; and trust in the joyful message.” Those who recognise the King and change their hearts, are invited to trust the joyful message of forgiveness, love and transformation. But for those who are blind to King Jesus, and who refuse to change, how can their be any forgiveness? God’s love is offered but they have rejected it. The offer is for all, but the enjoyment of God’s love is for those who accept it, even if they have been enemies of God and his children. In a word, this is to say that Jesus offered only love. He did not use any kind of force to make people go his way, but only tried to persuade them by word and action. Love is terrible because it leaves the decision with the beloved person.

4. But clearly enough, Jesus would tell me that I have to love Donald and the rest. Probably this rules out any glee about Jesus’ judgement upon them. So if I want to applaud while their fat sizzles, I cannot claim to belong to Jesus. Now that’s a bit awkward. And it doesn’t just apply to my enemies’ ultimate fate; it has to start now. “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors”. Could I get off with praying that their asses get fried? Probably not. The command also means that in a political area polluted with all forms of bad- mouthing, God’s people should speak peacefully but definitely in the name of the real Jesus.

5. All this sounds a bit extreme to me.

Our daughter Eleanor died 21/04/ 2020

M:

You turned to me from looking at the summit view:

In a cloudless sky the sun without mercy

Seized in its light the sharp mountains

The dusty plain and the far sea.

We set out serenaded by cowbells

Eased ourselves above the flowers and bushes

Struggled over bare rock ridges

With sheer slabs where I needed your shooshes

To let you make your own away to the top.

I was elated, but in your smile was knowledge

That this was as good as it would get, you were unwell

And wouldn’t recover no matter the courage

With which you’d face going down. You were asking

Me to recognise this truth and hold it

In my heart, and not to hurt you with false hope.

Suddenly I was aware how cold it

Gets up there and failed your honesty thinking,

“I want to keep you as you are.”

But now at last I come to say goodbye

Most near, most dear, most loved, and most far.

Our daughter Eleanor died 21/04/ 2020

Me: No sooner have you told me that you were inaccessible than you reveal yourself in events far and near…..

E+: We want you to listen to us…

M: And who are you?

E+: We are what Eleanor and others have become, a shared life which you cannot conceive.

M: Eleanor is no more?

E+: Not at all. She is alive forever as part of us.

M: But she can’t speak?

E+: She will not speak as if this change had not happened. We are also God, sharing God’s splendour and suffering. Utterly remote from the world we are part of God’s love for it and presence in it. And in you.

M: In me?

E+: Yes. You are aware of this but mistake it as appearances of your daughter. The truth is stranger than you imagine. Your mind is so attuned to her that you are quick to spot any presence that includes her, and you address only her. But we are more than her and she is more than her former self.

M: And her precious human memory of moments and days in this world, that’s gone?

E+: I am more than my former self, not less, so of course I can remember all we shared in that life. And I can use your language of I and you when I speak, although I also know a better one. As I kept reminding you, all that has passed between us since I died is touched by your imagination, which is vivid but inadequate. There’s truth in what you’ve written, but in a disguised form. Think of these conversations as parables rather than descriptions.

M: So we’re back to the first question I asked: where will we meet?

E+: When you know us in yourself, in other lives, or in the physical universe, as we share in the work of perfection. These things will happen, but you cannot make them happen, nor can you know more of our lives than that.

M: That’s it?

E+: No, you can hope one day to be with us, when everything will be clear. So move on, get on with life, focus on mum, who has done without all this fussing and just grieved. Do good, work for justice, climb the hills, be grateful, love God.

M: Right! I can hear a tone that encourages me to obey. So I will move on. You were the greatest gift to your mum and me, and the greatest loss. But now I can say goodbye, until I come to you, if that happens.

E+: Or maybe sooner, if we come to you. And don’t waste your time looking for us; but if you do, remember my word to you:

M: What word?

E+: Piss off, Dad.

Our daughter Eleanor died 21/ 04/2020

M:

Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

The times that I neglected you

To focus on the love of God (my version)

And made you ask if I’d rejected you.

Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

My lack of praise for things

Well-done by you, my failure to provide

Encouragement to let your virtues sing.

.

Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

I did not set a good example

With booze but by my habit made it seem ok

One’s use of it be more than ample.

.

Forgive and in forgiveness please forget

My sometimes bitter fury

When you fouled up, my lack of sympathy,

My need to be both judge and jury.

.

Forgive and in forgiveness please remember

My inept love of you, and fear

You might be taken from me, child who was never

And will be never, less than dear.

Eleanor our daughter died 21/04/2020

This is not fake news, it’s my witness and my testimony

My scientific evidence, my affidavit:

When Donald Trump came out of hospital and saluted

Announcing to the nation he was macho-fit

I saw you meet him in the White House hallway

Guide him with your strong black fingers

To a comfortable sofa to get his breath back

Then throw him a disruptive zinger:

“You’ve always been so worried about the size of your willy.”

Yes, it was an elegant black lady

But definitely you, your voice, your wit, your sad

Compassion as you made the

President see himself for once without fear. I was

Applauding you by name, El! El!

Last week, I’d just parked the car in the driveway

When my nose caught the pungent smell

Of the three dogs, one old, one young, one lame

All rescued by the polish woman

Who lives nearby. As I sat on the stone wall

To greet them – I swear this is another true one –

I saw my arms were your arms, open to them

my hands your hands tickling their floppy

Ears, my mind your mind comprehending

Their dogliness. Nothing could stop me

Looking over my shoulder to catch your eye,

Breaking the spell. And yet I knew my daughter

As certainly as from the shore I know

The presence of a porpoise in the water

By its back. I cannot make this happen,

Nor anticipate it in the flow

Of time, but am grateful and acknowledge

A quiet way of saying hello.