From the lives of Saint Abramius and of his niece St Mary

Icon of SS Abramius and Mary, with St Anastasia the Roman, third century martyr also celebrated on 29th October.

My poem is a rather free improvisation on the story. In the Life by St Dmitri of Rostov (it can be consulted here), Mary flees out of an awareness of sinfulness after she has been seduced by a false monk-disciple of her uncle.

The soul, being enormous, cannot fit
this narrow way, even knowing
or at least believing,
or at least thinking
that only beyond or through it
will it find
a space
that is more or less adequate.

I threw myself against the wall,
against a door that is
wide open but
I thought it was too small.

And so I left the little cell
where God walked with my uncle in the cool
of the evening and ran away
to preserve my soul to the ‘big city’
where I walked the streets and was taken
in the arms of this one. And that one.

This enormous soul, still
thrown against the wall.

And my uncle, he
was always with me, weeping,
even a hundred miles away,

because he was in God, knowingly,
and I was in God just because
everything is in God, and that is why
those whose eyes are opened, who see
in God, see everything, and weep

So my uncle came, looking for me,
presenting himself at the brothel door,
making himself small
and insignificant,
just another

We conversed
that night and our conversation turned
on the enormous pit
that is the longing of the soul and on what
properly corresponds to it.

And so I returned to my uncle’s cell
and I felt like a child that is growing smaller,
a child who is
returning to childhood, to a world
growing ever bigger, an
expanding Universe, Heaven,
seen through a narrow door
a door that the soul can only enter
when it has become

Fool for Christ

Verily I say unto you, they have their reward’
Matt 6.2

The gratification of being well regarded
is my reward.
My reward is a stone
that pulls me down.
I must get rid
of my reward.

The eyes of men
are so many knives
cutting me up; under their gaze
I become
Legion. I pass like a whore
from one to the other
like so many pieces
of a smashed mirror.

Lusting after praise,
avaricious of praise,
proud of praise,
gluttonous for praise,
envious of praise,
angry at being disregarded and soon
falling into apathy.

That is how the days
pass; to flee
from the snare, I must be
like Lazarus
lying at the rich man’s gate.

I must climb under
my reward, then, free
of other men’s eyes
I can see
I can see the angels
outside the brothels
and round the walls
of the churches the devils
and in the depths
of winter, dressed
only in rags, lying
in the gutter I can taste
the fruits of Paradise.

In an Orthodox Church

Here is a poem……….


In this place,
everything is still, any
noise is a shock.
No-one is
laughing here,
in this place, above
everything that happens,
above and below
and inside and out.
It requires,
this everywhere,
silence and darkness.
This is the most dear
above thinking, here thinking
is a distraction,
demons, dreams and wishes
are only a nuisance.
The vibration of
strong emotion shrinks
this space, which is
normally very big, any
contrary vibration, contrary
space (e.g.
is ruinous.
In this place what was
continuous has become saccadic,
what was saccadic
has become continuous.
I am living in an un-
finished dot drawing.
This is the house of prayer
where David went.
I am huddled in a dark
corner of his tent.
Here I have not seen God,
but I (and everyone with me)
have known a lovely
darkness from too much light.