God’s Breath

This is one of the poems I wrote at the CARM Retreat at Launde Abbey in April. The first line is from George Herbert’s poem ‘Prayer’ which we looked at one evening. The poem’s theme comes from the second day of the retreat, with the brief: “Write a poem about silence, hiddenness, mystery, or Holy Saturday”.

“God’s breath in man returning to his birth”;
God’s breath, that made flesh-covered dry bones live;
God’s breath, that quickened Man from primal earth;
God’s breath: the heart of all that God can give.

The tomb contains the aftermath of death,
Remains of One with nothing left to spend.
The world outside in silence holds its breath;
Each person hopes or fears this is the end.

The first day brought disorder, darkness, pain;
The third will break in resurrection might;
The second brings God’s mystery again:
The breath in darkness re-creating light,

God’s breath restoring life to One who died –
But changed from what was seen and known before;
Eternal life is in the Crucified,
The power by faith to live, and die no more.

Yet death has many faces, many forms:
The loss of hope; a sadness, left alone;
All meaning, purpose, swept away by storms,
While silence in the darkness takes the throne.

As if beneath the ground, or in the tomb,
My body wastes away; I find no worth.
Dare I still hope for life, a grace to come?
God’s breath in me returning to my birth.

Because I was also doing a photography retreat, I took this to go with the poem. The tomb is in the grounds of the abbey; it looks dark and forbidding, but beyond the tomb (literally in this case) is new life – although the focusing options I used means that this new life is not yet clear…


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