Saturday, May 26, 2012


The inspiration behind 'codswallop' comes from years of collecting crass bromides when other people try and respond to suffering. I started at the end of 1984 when the M.S. came out of remission and added a lot more after Paul’s death in 1985.

One woman, having asked what was wrong with me, offered the information that she was an exorcist. She also said twice that when she saw me she thought “there, but for the grace of God, go I”. After the second time, I asked her what that was saying about me and the grace of God, which fortunately shut her up.

The idea that God tests you only to the limit of your strength, I found appalling. In the first place, I hadn't blamed God and in the second, at that time, I was not at the limits of my strength although I would say by now I am. So that's where the poem came from as if we are all sitting a life time exam.

After Paul had died I was still being told that if I prayed the M.S. would still get better. And even my explaining, that people were praying up and down the coasts of New Zealand for Paul when he was dying, didn't shift his earnestness. I distinctly remember that Christ on the cross called out in near despair “my God, why hast thou forsaken me”: which seems to suggest that God sometimes says “no”, not always a word that people want to hear.

I know I fit the Old Testament model: if I'm suffering like this, God can not be pleased with me but it's strange to detect such thinking in other people, although, I must say, most of their bromides consist of not saying anything at all which I suppose, is safer when you are communicating with a wordsmith.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


God tests you only to the limits

of your strength.” That means an exam.

My mind goes back to a great hall,

tables and chair spaced out separately,

frazzled students waiting for the start command.

But thats not right; it will be

a take-home lifelong exam, with no concern

for the welfare of students, only for

the integrity of the subject.

Answers are absolute. You're competing

not with others but with yourself.

Many are called but few are chosen.”

That makes three categories:

called, uncalled and chosen.

And not our choice either.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


She went out with a growl and a spit;

not grumpiness, you understand,

but arthritic pain in her joints.

She'd been fading for the last few weeks,

great weight loss, her fur no longer plush;

but it was her eyes, they looked haunted,

not fear of death but fear of life itself;

the long day-to-day endurance.

We laid her in a bed of autumn leaves,

under the hedge, below the smoke bush

flaming its defiance into the sky.

The house still resonates with her presence:

her curled sleeping shape

her daily dash down the hall

her deep-throated purr.