JANUARY 07, 2019 by Stephen McLaren
Reflections 4

Faith, Belief & Doubt

‘Life is no frail candle . . .

 Many renowned philosophers have written about life and many have reached the same conclusion : "Life can be a splendid torch which one holds for a few moments.  We should ensure that the torch of our life burns as brightly as possible, before handing it on."

GBS is saying that whilst we are alive, we should take every opportunity to live.   In each of us, there is an immense life force, but it is so and only becomes reality if we seize our life with both hands.

G B Shaw


‘The Almond Tree . . .

All the way to the hospital, the lights were green as peppermints. Trees of black iron broke into leaf ahead of me, as if I were the lucky prince in an enchanted wood, summoning summer with my whistle, banishing winter with a nod.

Swung by the road from bend to bend, I was aware that blood was runningdown through the delta of my wrist and under arches of bright bone. Centuries,continents it had crossed; f rom an undisclosed beginning spiralling to an unmapped end.

Crossing (at sixty) Magdalen Bridge, let it be a son, a son, said the man in the driving mirror, let it be a son. The tower held up its hand: the college bells shook their blessings on his head.I parked in an almond's shadow blossom, for the tree was waving, waving at me upstairs with a child's hands.

Up the spiral stair and at the top along a bone-white corridor the blood tide swung me, swung me to a room whose walls shuddered  with the shuddering womb.  Under the sheet wave after wave, wave after wave beat on the bone coast, bringing ashore - whom?  New- minted, my bright farthing! Coined by our love, stamped with our images, how you enrich us!  Both you make one. Welcome to your white sheet, my best poem.

At seven-thirty, the visitors' bell scissored the calm of the corridors.  The doctor walked with to the slicing doors.  His hand is upon my arm, his voice - I have to tell you - set another bell beating in my head: your son has Down’s Syndrome, the doctor said. How easily the words went in - clean as a bullet, leaving no mark on the skin, stopping the heart within it.  This was my first death. The 'I ' ascending on a slow last thermal breath studied the man below as a pilot treading air might the buckled shell of his plane - boot, glove and helmet feeling no pain from the snapped wires' radiant ends. Looking down from a thousand feet, I held four walls in the lens of an eye; wall, window, the street, a torrent of windscreens, my own car under its almond tree, and the almond waving me down. I wrestled against gravity, but light was melting and the gulf cracked open. Unfamiliar the body of my late self I carried to the car.The hospital - its heavy freight lashed down ship-shape ward over ward - steamed into night with some on board soon to be lost if the desperate charts were known. Others would come altered to land or find the land altered. At their voyage's end some would be added to, some diminished. In a numbered cot my son sailed from me; never to come ashore into my kingdom speaking my language. Better not look that way. The almond tree was beautiful in labour. Blood- dark, quickening, bud after budsplit, flower after flower shook free.On the darkening wind a pale face floated. Out of reach. Only when  the buds, all the buds were broken would the tree be in full sail.In labour the tree was becoming itself.  I too, rooted in earth and ringed by darkness, from the death of myself saw myself blossoming, wrenched from the caul of my thirty years' growing, fathered by my son, unkindly in a kind season by love shattered and set free.

J Stallworthy

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