Nothing Personal?

[For a long time I’ve been wondering how to communicate my Christian view of the world in the form of a poem. A theme I keep returning to is the vast implications of the fact that Jesus is the Word of God, the one who created and upholds all things. As a scientist, the more I reflect on how information – speech – lies at the heart of physics and biology, the more significant seems the particular claim that God’s creative act is a speaking act. The work of George Steiner has also been hugely influential on me – particularly the thesis that the possibility of meaning in Art and literature are underwritten by a wager of divine presence. This poem picks up on these themes, and links them to the Gospel message, the centre of Christian hope]

Beyond all beginnings
Harmony reverberates.
Dynamism ceaseless stirs.
Uncreated One and Three
Unfettered by enclosing space,
Unlatched from flowing time.
In the pregnant prelude,
All knowing is
An intimate embrace.
All being is
Cosmically unframed.

He is,
Before there was.

At a purposed word
Love’s overflow outpoured,
Saying spilling over
Ordaining mortal order,
Dictating time’s meter.
Syllables precisely placed
Delineate dimensions,
Transcribe expectant space.

A singular absurdity,
A cosmic virgin birth.

Intently woven utterance
Informed the formless void.
Cadences in perfect pitch
Roused matter into flux,
Wove presence in unfolding time,
Spun forth celestial geometry,
Cast cosmic choreography
Breathing subtle calculus,
Utter heft of gravity,
Eternal grammar conjugating
Quivering of subatomic specks,
Soaring photons sputtering the black,
Shimmer of majestic pulsing suns.

Ageless presence rippled into space,
Absence filled by ordered grace.

Speech suffused yet deeper still,
Enlivening the word-wrought frame.
Wisdom indwelt simple dust,
Genius transformed mute earth,
Sterile grandeur overspilled,
Dumb molecules conversed.
Sentience struck dumb substance,
Quickened matter whispering
Secrets to itself,
Intercellular sayings
Subtly synthesised in
Sentences of vital code.

Logos of the unconceived embrace,
Breathed being into time and space.

Spirited, creation stirred,
Startled substance split the silence,
Rousing cry of newborn Earth.
Grunting, howling, chirping things
Poured frequencies abroad,
Rent the freighted air with song.
The cattle of a thousand hills,
The birds upon a thousand trees,
Trembling leaves set dancing on the wind
Lifting hymns in countless tongues.

Answering the greater voice,
The animated earth cried out.

Rejoicing in the indwelt world,
Spreading love of One and Three
Stooped to silent dust,
Scribed once more the speechless earth,
Crowning new-born nature with
The image of the uncreated Word,
Offspring of eternal joy
Called into being for unity.
A sonnet scored in quivering flesh,
Discerning beyond time and space
Presence of the intimate embrace.

Male and female called by name,
Immortal image in the mortal frame.

Crescendo of creation’s cry
Christened then the newborn world,
Mortal chips off ageless rock
Mandated by design to sense
Ripples lapping outside time,
Discerning in contingent worlds
Words in a transcendent tongue.
Fertile minds rent heavens cloths,
The great voice whispered forth.
Science unpicked nature’s hems,
Substance bled with speech,
Each crystal, star and cell
Arranged by graceful grammar.
Inspired minds patterned after
Wisdom of the Word
Thrilled to blackboard exegesis.

Joining in creation’s hymn of praise,
We traced the gleaming edges of His ways.

Speech poured from sentience,
Symbols scored in free array on
Canvas, manuscript and stave,
Tracing unseen presences,
Epiphanies of immanence,
The interspace where universals
Kiss each particular delight.
Harmony by harmony inspired,
Images from image of the Word,
An uncoerced overture to
Gracious gift of given world.

Foundations patterned outside time,
Underwrite our reach to the sublime.

Discerning nature’s symphony,
Yet nature’s crown denied the source.
The crucial founding miracle,
Borrowed but then buried in denial.
It’s nothing personal they said as,
Pinioned under glare upon the slab,
Groaning nature’s marrow seeped
Subtle ciphered speech,
Runes in a forgotten tongue
Trimmed by fallen logic from the frame,
Irrelevant remainders in our
Haughty vivisection of the world,
Unquestioned trust wagered now on
Busted flush of insubstantial chance.
It’s nothing personal they said, that
Dumb atoms complicate themselves,
Sentences from silence spring,
Chaos is our tyrant king.

Illumined by eternal light,
Yet swearing blind the dark was light.

Scrubbing all horizons but the self,
We sealed the open sky,
Lit lanterns in the midday night,
Babel’s shadows deepening
Upon our raucous din.
In cooling dusk of afterword,
Distortion reigned in cell and mind,
Static slurring speech,
Frustrating former fluency.
The orchestra descended into anarchy,
Conductor hounded from the podium,
Instruments once tuned to strains of love
Muttered new malignant odes,
Dictated death,
Uttered horrors,
Atonal dirge swelling through
Desecrated stages of
Rwanda, Auschwitz, Srebrenica,
And others known to God alone.
Bleak dissonance of mortal shame,
The image of the Word profaned.

Made to echo love’s eternal theme,
We turned instead to countless wicked schemes.

Since we denied the cosmic strain,
The Word came.
A fragile cry in silent Bethlehem,
Newborn syllables
Older than the world,
Not thundering in smoke and flame,
But gently cooing, babbling.
A simple infant dialogue,
First voice finding first words,
Tender skin, pink and warm
Against cold night air.
Mystery of mysteries,
The universe-upholding Word,
Swaddled in forgotten outpost
Of pompous empire.

God in flesh and blood was born,
To poverty and common scorn.

Slow growing,
Revealed by degrees,
Eternal wisdom spoke within
His deconstructed masterpiece.
Discord now rescored to
Transcendent melody.
A penetrating harmony,
Calm, assured authority as
Conversations outside time
Broke within our sealed sky.
A word against the raging storm,
Wholeness wrought from ruin,
Abundant life unfurled,
I am that I am
Declaring timeless parables
To a desecrated world.

Long awaited prophecies were stirred,
Revelation crowned by living Word.

The piercing Word inflamed
The tender, trifling pride of man.
Curiosity clotting to a settled scorn,
Inexorable blackness of the heart
Disowning then condemning,
And all with borrowed breath.
Sleeping while he sweated blood,
Betraying with a kiss of death,
Denying round a guttering flame
As darkness drained a watercolour sky.
They knew not what they did
With nails and thorns
Outside the city gates.
The broken body hoisted high,
Eloquence reduced to rasping breath,
“Why have you forsaken me”
He begged unanswering heaven.
A final gasping cry,
Then nothing more.
The great Word hanging silent.
Love’s sonnet writ in spit and blood.
Mercy’s opus hung upon a tree.
Sun bowed in reverent awe,
Earth, affronted, shuddering,
As it was finished

Redemption birthed outside of time,
Was wrought with blood in Palestine.

A musty veil was torn in temple gloom,
A trumpet sounding clear in breaking dawn.
Dark frost of winter melts away,
To bud and shoot and leaf of spring.
Blossom blooms, birds sing,
Light floods the snatching grave,
Empty-handed death struck mute
In blank astonishment.
The risen Word rings steady,
Rippling out from empty tomb,
Low slung chord reverberating
Deep from founding harmony,
Loosening a tongue-tied world
To peals of laughter in the place of pain.
The many join the Three in One,
Enfolded in the everlasting arms,
Prelude to unfathomable peace,
When in a little while
Birth pangs relent to promised joy,
Countless voices lifted
In unending symphony:
Holy, Holy, Holy
To the eternal Word,
Who was,
Who is,
Who is to come.
For He has done it.