Pádraig in Melbourne

Apologies to my international readers, but I’m about to post a series of really wonderful events to come along to in Melbourne.

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a delightful Irish poet in Melbourne for three months doing a stint as poet-in-residence for the Uniting Church.  I am involved in promoting a couple of public events which promise to be very special.  Pádraig is a poet, justice activist and theologian from Belfast.  He has a beautiful way of seeing the world, and an even more beautiful way of speaking about it.

I’ve set up a wordpress site as a conduit for a number of his public events that are being organised by various groups around Melbourne, which he is squeezing into an already full program working with various Uniting Church staff and volunteers.  Go check it out and get along to whatever you can!


The Cliff and the Sea by the Cafe Church community

(Melbourne: Milk Crate Press, 2011)

This is a gorgeous little collaboration by the cafe-church community in Melbourne.  It’s a collection of poems, short stories, reflections and visual art that testifies to living spiritually in this place.  It’s beautiful.  Wrought by the passion and pain of real lives.  Full of love.  One example is pictured here is ‘The Tree of Life’ by Tracy Johnson.

It’s cruel to single out one piece, but I want to inspire you to buy the book (which you can do via www.cafechurch.org) so here is the piece most relevent to me.  I used it on the front cover of the essay I have just handed in – on liminality.

I Awake Suddenly by Alister Pate

I awake suddenly with a start.  It is dark as death.  Dark, and terribly late at night.  The sky is filled with barely visible clouds whipping across the void.

I am standing on a hillside, almost a cliff, a sheer tumbling down, plummeting down to the pitch black water.  I sense rather than see the saltbush and stunted shrubs that cling for dear life against the sea, churning so far below.

The air is full of the roar of the waves, grinding and casting and moaning against the rocks far beneath, bellowing and sighing, as though great Behemoth were gnawing away at the precarious handhold life has here, trying to drag it, spinning and circling, into its foaming maw.

I can smell the salt fresh of the air, the tang of it, sea spray ice-cold across my face.

Across the black sea, made velvet by height, shines the moon, huge by the horizon.  It is as though she has drawn close for some oblique, esoteric reason of her own, casting her light like a highway.

There is hope, then, but mediated.  If the sun were risen, how different it would be.  I wrap my arms around my body, holding in my life-heat.  It is still deep night, as though the sun were dead, leaving only an unreliable memory, were it not for the moon, relaying his light – reflected, lessened.  A token, a remembrance, of hope then, rather than the hope itself.  Just enough to see the next step by; not enough to warm me.

I have to move, to walk.  I can barely see the faintest of paths, rocky, muddy, treacherous.  If I slip, if I miss my footing, then I will join the rocks and be consumed by the all-devouring mouth of the sea.

But move I must.  To stay here is death as well, ossifying in the despairing cold.  Though I can barely see, there is just enough light to walk the next step of the path, hesitantly and with painful delicacy, gripping onto plants, as they loom out of the night, revealing their branches against the dim sky.

As I walk, following the dim path carefully, painstakingly, along the cliff edge, I have a subtle sense that, though I can see no-one through the black, and hear no-one past the inexorable crash and roar of the sea, I am not alone.  Someone has walked this path before.  And the faintest echo of laughter, the scent of the best wine kept for last, a fragment of sun-warmed dust seems to brush against my skin.  The faintest of hopes, when hope seems lost.

I walk.