An irritant of soul


With this man I stand
[one of the legends surrounding Menas who died a martyr c. 303 AD] 

The hermit's cave
was dark and bare
and sparse to meet a robber's greed:
a desert Father's wealth is love,
his jewels are only
wisdom, peace and grace.

Returning home
he found a thief
clawing and cursing in the gloom,
so old dry hands removed a stone,
retrieved his cross of gold and chain,
and placed its loop around the neck
of Menas, scowling,
mocking in his face.

The rough rapacious bandit,
bent on blood and vengeance wild,
at home in hills and wilderness,
who saw life cheap, his to possess,
rode out into the desert of his heart
where cross of gold clung to his sweat
and questioned life and dreams,
his violence mad.

In camel's flight across the sands,
in noon-day heat,
the stench of death,
and that cross, an irritant of soul:
more questions came
and fears arose,
but still he drove the camel on,
pursuing tracks
through inner wastes
of haze and dust
and dune and rock.

At length
with desperate boldness,
wracked in mind and torn in soul,
he staggered from the margins of his life
into Egypt's sanctuary
and craved death's water______[baptism]
to slake his spirit's thirst
for life.

Recognised for who he was,
Alexandria threw him out,
and left stunned Menas
on the road,
beside the church,
dust in his mouth
and heart.

But One approached him,
vellum book in hand,
to dust him down and
help him to his feet.
Then arm around him,
faced the crowd
of judgement and abuse:
'With this man I stand!'
was all was said,
and deserts were baptised that day.

With word
and arm
and face of love,
with eyes that read the heart,
this figure strong
still stands with those
who come at last to knock.

However wild,
however dry,
the desert times have been,
the day can come
as cross strikes heart
and soul responds in grief,
our brother Christ
extends his arm
and brokenness is healed.

Robin Pryor headshotRobin Pryor was a Uniting Church minister who ran spirituality courses. His poems have appeared in Poetica Christi anthologies, Eremos and Earthsong, among others.

Topic tags: Robin Pryor, poetry



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Existing comments

Some stories are best told in verse. Thank you Robin
Ian Fraser | 17 September 2013

Your poetic eyes and heart continue to bless us. Thank you.
alex nelson | 17 September 2013

Great poem. Great vision of the meaning of grace
Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 18 September 2013

Robin, we miss your warmth, your depth of insight, your quiet wisdom and your poet's heart and insight.
Robert Bos | 20 September 2013


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