Here is where I meet God



Here is where I meet God.

At this time of year, the spruit stinks of sewerage:

not enough rain to flush away the filth.

“Little more than a sewer” the counsellor said.

I pity the tumbling stream,

And the creatures that live here.

A bird calls from the highest point of the rusting pylon, while others pick amidst the plastic, the beer cans and broken bottles, the polystyrene and ochre foam.

There are broken swings here,

and a rusting rocking-boat full of weeds.

The stench of urine,

and the laughter of ghosts.

The hadeda ibis calls

his melancholy call:

flaps heavy,

black, iridescent wings,

drags himself into the sky to join his mate.

Together they fly towards the city: these strange creatures made by God.

The Hymn of the Seraphim:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of hosts; Heaven and earth are full of Your holy glory.

A biting wind blows in.

“Cold weather in from the Cape” they say.

Its been a long day:

with news of terror bombings in a faraway city – children murdered in the name of a fierce god.

The local news, as ever, is enough to make the angels weep;

Machiavellian politicians anger any self-respecting prophet.

My words are too often repeated,

repeated words to God O God

Hear Thou my prayer


Words that catch in my throat:

shards of prayer.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.


Not so much a prayer as a sigh, a whisper

a thin breath.

The weary grow wearier.

The brokenhearted remain brokenhearted, the mad mad, the deformed deformed, the desolate desolate, the poor poor, the naked naked, the blind blind, the lost lost.

Where is that unwanted

dusty Rabbi

Whose hands healed

Whose words drove out devils

Who loved much?


The unanswered prayers

tumble like autumn’s last leaves


Forgetful of their fragility


huddled in little heaps, or barely clinging to thin branches.

These leaves

Are as brittle as a man’s faith.

Here is where I meet God

In this place where homeless men light rubbish fires for a little warmth.

Even my rage against God turns

to dust

to shame

to pity

To nothing.

Who would hold anything against God when the moon is a silver disk in the evening sky, when all men and creatures call out for pity?


I cross the concrete bridge, beside the graffiti scrawls, beyond the rocks where the african zionists gather to baptize and cast out devils and anoint with fetid water.

I think happiness is in moments,

in small things observed quietly.

The flash of blue and green robes

The beat of a small drum.

Here is where God meets me

A silent God,

indifferent to my petitions:

God, hear my prayer

Do you hear?

What fear

keeps a man from

The Lord of hosts?

A hidden God

hidden in the grey dusk,

Who walks away from me, his shoulders hunched against the cold, a ragged man in a thin coat

as worn as life.

I wonder if He holds each moment in his hands like a precious stone, not one lost or discarded.

He looks with my eyes at the sky-etched power-lines

As much a prisoner here as I

He lights a little fire beside the river, to warm his hands.

There, where the reeds are trampled by passersby

A bruised reed will he not break,

and a dimly burning wick will he not quench.

My worship, my prayer is this:

This act of looking.

My eyes: His eyes

Pleni sunt cæli et terra gloria tua.

Heaven and earth are full of Your holy glory

Sanctus sanctus sanctus


Last leaves | photograph ©SH


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