Take six from seven, take the stage and then the altar. Take a wife, a wife, a daughter. Take a deep breath, say:

This is life

Take the bread, take the wine.

Take, eat:

hold the bread and wonder what was given. This is his body. Hold. Wonder. Push away the words familiar. Push away the day, the hurt, the sinner. This is His body.

Eat, drink:

His blood was shed for you. You believe it but wonder why you have to drink it too. Surely this is only wine. It passes lips, passes the tongue, makes it past lies, passing through organs, soaking through blood and into the real world where the symbols live. Envy, jealousy, fits of rage. And now mercy, compassion…you’re thinking of him now - a thought of God stirs inside you. You partake of him.

You drop back for a moment. What is it, honestly, what is it? Why am I holding it like this? Why am I praying, eating, drinking, sitting? What does it mean? Real things can’t be symbols. You put your hand in your pocket, touch car keys, wallet. Take and eat. Focus on the bread and the wine and the saviour until there is nothing else. Take and meet.

“For as often as you take this bread and drink this cup… ”

“This is his body broken for you, this is his blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins… ”


There’s what he said, then there’s bread, there’s how many verses, which side of the altar? There’s all the reasons you shouldn’t listen to him, all the things you think when you see her and sometimes there’s hurt. Sometimes there’s family. Sometimes a dove. Where it settles there’s grace, after the flood. Sometimes there’s nothing. Sometimes there’s not. There’s bread, wine and God.

You hear the words proclaimed, you take, you eat, you rest. You let go of every part that doesn’t want a saviour. You feel the calm, savour the hope and the assurance of being rescued, share the symbol of the proof that we are hurt and we are loved.

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One. Name.
One name over and over and over.

Pleading. Longing. Holding out your hands. Is this what your grandparents meant when they said they prayed for you? You’re not even sure what you believe. You can hear your mother speaking to you:
“Not a very good atheist.”
Maybe not. But you’re not asking him to exist, only to hear you. Is that rational? You’re not praying to a God you know could but rather a God you hope would. You want the irrational God right now. There are a dozen arguments in your head that keep the others at arm’s length but there is one name that brings you down to your knees. And you got the call. And he’s in hospital again. And you don’t know which one.

He must be an angel because you’ve never really prayed before. Since you’ve met him you’ve been crying and praying – more in three months than in your whole life. God. Can you hear me? God. Are you there?
Save him! He doesn’t deserve this, he means everything to me. I don’t care if you exist or not, you have to help him, you can’t not do it!

You’re past bargaining. Other men you might have tricked but not this one. What can you offer when you would tear the sky apart if you could, when every word is an earthquake through your lungs. There’s nowhere left to sink to, nothing left to cry. It’s four in the morning, you’re lying on the floor clutching your phone to your chest, hands twisting the edges. If there was something you could fight you would have, something you could buy or break you would have. You’re here because there’s no pretending. No pretending that you know what to do.

You used to pretend to read your Grandfather’s bible before you knew it was a bible. Before you could read. You’d wait until he was sleeping and find it. Take it out, sit your hand on the pages, turn them over. You wonder if God ever prayed for someone. Did he ever love someone enough to tear the earth apart, enough that he could die?

This is intercession. A place beyond love’s joy. A weight so heavy it could crush you. But still it’s only weight.

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Thank you poet

She looked at me with ink on her fingers
Saw paper mouth and paper hair
A picture paints a thousand words
But you stand hidden in a word with just one picture
Not read out because it can’t be
The picture written
The words let go
The poem folded up inside

Hidden in a book made precious
Poet, why do you write
When do the words let go
How many thoughts discarded
How many hurts unknown

She is
I need
a poet then, someone to jab me with a pen
someone to shout to
again and again and again

I saw her in my dream last night
An eye out the window a finger on the pad
For seeing it, for sharing it

She wrote aloud what she saw
Pages of people past window
Paragraphs of move and feeling
She tossed them away like they were nothing
Words on paper with no value
She cursed herself for writing it, for reading it

She sat down set to start
Sighed a deep look down the street
The poem closed the pad and wrote along her arm
Thank you
For feelin’ it
For feelin’ it
Too much

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Some words I have learned never to say in polite company.
In America you must never say ‘toilet’. A toilet is called a restroom.
If you call someone a ‘cheeky little money’, you’re being racist.
An ass is called a ‘butt’.
We all know what a bumbag is called, in America.

In Scotland hatred is called opinion.
Reading only blogs for news is called being informed.
Character assassination is called debate.
Dissent is deleted.
Pragmatism is called negativity.
Negativity is called dissent.

Politics is still called politics.
You must never say cult.
A cult is called a political party.

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It’s …
the slip of it around your tongue,
the weight of it, the flexibility. Amber velvet.
A taste of colour.

A familiar sting. Then breathe it in – the smell that makes you smile every time. Like a secret shared between you and this. And then, the second sip.

Roll it round your mouth, then you can relax, muscle and mind absorbed in the rhythm, the knowing what’s next.
Splash it round the glass, round your eyes.
Watch the legs form, run down the side, as you feel it slip down your throat.

The colour, the taste, the movement – these are the things you call it by, not just a name and a number you could attach to anything, not something you know, this is something you ken.

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This is Seville and I built it.
Heaved the statues out of the ground, fired the builder’s arms with blood, lit the architect’s imagination.
Stood back.

I invented poetry. Put the words together for you. Words for landscapes, words for heart breaks, words for love.
I sent you flowers and you fell in love with Seville.

I wrote my love song across the city, built great cathedrals for breves, sang the refrain, I listened, I waited, I listened, I waited.
You covered your ears but caught the echo. You waited for your part and then
Nothing. You filled in the blanks with blanks.

Now even the statues look silent.
I built it. I know that I built it.
They push in together, cameras flashing, arms reaching out and touching but never feeling. Don’t you see?

No-one built a statue for a city. No-one built a statue for lust, just the postponed rejection of love. No-one built a statue for money. But now even the statues that I built for you seem silent.
I stand a little back, watching. I stand a little back…listening. Hoping.

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The Bomb That Didn’t Go Off

Bricks separated from rubble,
the man who picked them out sits there weeping. Next door an undemolished building, with the occasional shouts of children playing indoors.
And…There. There’s a man full of hate and other people’s thoughts with his fingers tight around the neck of a gun.

All night the bombs fall, four days into the latest curfew. Mercenaries ring the rooftops, hungry families stay indoors. These are the parts of Damascus that refuse to let go.

198 killed, 41 wounded. 32 killed, 74 wounded. 71 killed, 3 wounded. Another bomb. Another number with a name. The building next door, a neighbour, friend, another friend, your car, your only way out.

Damascus opens its shutters and carefully peers out below, grateful to have been spared but wondering when, when, when – fearing most of all the bomb that hadn’t fallen, that simply hovered above their lives. A constant state of sudden terror, jumping at the noise they didn’t hear, thought they heard, holding their breath, saying a prayer, counting the unticked seconds. They look out but dare not look up.

A nearby street cracks and roars and the sound of gunshots tears through living rooms and makeshift bedsits. The next day the shutter opens and a piece of Damascus is missing. They can see other buildings now visible, standing where they shouldn’t be, as though stepping out and waiting. They know who lives inside them now. They know who used to live nearby.

Two hundred thousand people have died this way. An entire country has been robbed.
And the world looked on. 9.5 million people have fled their homes. Cities have been swallowed through by hate. And the world looked on. Schools were soaked in napalm, children choked or burned. Those that survived were left shaking uncontrollably and crying out ‘How? How could they bomb us while we were at school?’. Syria was imprisoned, Syria starved, Syria was tortured night after night, Syria died, two hundred thousand times.

And the world looked on, did nothing
and the bomb went off and
they said nothing felt nothing heard nothing

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The Man Who Had No Opinion

The man who never had an opinion lived in a nondescript house, a creaky old tenement or an orange and blue apartment block and he voted three ways. He had no heart to tell him what to think and no head to tell him what to feel but he had a hundred thousand friends and a membership in all the political parties – how he hated all the rest. He reached the end of his days by following some simple rules.

Rule 1.
Nationalists are evil / Nationalists are good.
Immigrants are evil / Immigrants are good.
Conservative are evil /

Rule 2.
Don’t talk to strangers. This is a very important rule but mainly just for kids.

Rule 3.
Anyone who disagrees with me, the man with no opinion, is vile, un-friend them immediately.

Rule 4.
Politicians are corrupt, except the ones I like.
Bankers are like humans but much more greedy.
Don’t look at your credit card statement.

Rule 5.
The evil rich are too rich and the noble poor are too poor and the rich who used to be poor are the worst of all.

The noble rich are too poor and the evil poor are too rich and the poor who used to be rich are the worst of all.

Rule 6.
Religious people are idiots. The bible is full of contradictions, that’s why I’ve never read it. I already believe they are there so why would I ever need to find any?

Rule 7.
Your nationality tells you all you need to know. Thank goodness you didn’t end up with one of those other nationalities.

Rule 8.
Tolerate all kinds of people except the people who aren’t tolerant. When I say tolerate, obviously you can still make jokes about gay people, that’s fine, smiley face makes it ok. Just don’t be gay about it. Americans as well, we could all use a laugh now and then. Oh and the mentally ill, you know, mental people.

Rule 9.
Being right makes you right, morally superior, to one who is wrong. If a member of an opposing group says something wrong your entire system of belief is correct.

Rule 10.
And my personal favourite: follow your heart.
The medical consequences of doing otherwise are unthinkable.

The day they cut off – The Day They Cut Off The Internet, the television man said that the news websites were reporting that the word on the street was the blogs had gone dark. It was so quiet you could hear a bomb drop, so quiet you could hear a child cry, so quiet you could hear yourself think. Quiet, so quiet, that you didn’t know what to do.

The man who never had an opinion realised his problem wasn’t that he’d never had an opinion but that he’d had too many and all he ever needed was one.

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