the deckchair man

I wish I could remember now
what the deckchair man had said

in the evening
before the sun went down

I had been his only customer
all of that long day

on the quiet shore
where no one else had come

something about attachment
something about the senses

chains by which we’re bound
that much I know

something about forgiveness
something about acceptance

something about surrender
letting go

something about love
all-redeeming love

and there being no turning back
once we are called

he spoke so very softly
it might have been the sea

when I looked
there was no one there at all

pretending not to hear

darkness before dawn
I listen
as is my practice

lifting the mug of coffee to my lips
with both hands

the dog is sleeping on the bed

you tell me (as have others)
that the truth is closer
than I am to myself
closer than the thick black liquid
quickening in my throat

only it’s not working today

it is not here
that which with a rush is only everywhere

in your voice
the quiet breathing of the dog
the sip of coffee

grace knows no horizon
the heart no other resting place
than this

yet I’m no wiser

like children at a rock pool
we have dipped our buckets
and I have drawn up nothing once again

curious water
a ribbon of seaweed

if I were on my deathbed
even now
yours is a voice
to lead me by circuitous paths
to nowhere

which is the only place
I ever thought to be

it might be birdsong
or the voice of my father
calling up the stair
as I rocked on my heels
pretending not to hear
so long ago

I spit the grounds
place the mug down gently to one side
close my tired eyes
and see more clearly
that I am never closer to God
than when I am about to fall

and know

there is no one here to catch me
but myself

one second

so long I have waited
listening for a footfall at the door

now in that very listening
am assured

that You have never left this house at all
for one second

but have in all this time
been overlooked

simply ignored

fifty years on

on the windowsill
the little Buddah
I bought in the Portobello Road
when I first learnt to meditate

fifty years on
and I finally get it

a thousand YouTube gurus
have their say

you say nothing

and that is all I need today

all on a summer’s day

I placed my feet in water
that sprang from sacred ground

the stones like silent counsellors
my wife and child stood round

some part of me I left there
it being so hot that day

the things that we remember
as memory falls away

a life as soft as water
a pillow where I lay

a pool along the wayside
all on a summer’s day