The sunroom monk's cell



Selected poems



Ask the engine


What is the capital of Burkina Faso? My ignorance gnaws

until I click and type. Ouagadougou, that’s the joint —

I never know how much I don’t know, until I know.

What does HDMI stand for? Give me a sec —

High-Definition Multimedia Interface!

Now I know, until I don’t — that is, forget.

Genius is only as deep as its memory.


Wikipedia is a bigger library than Alexandria,

British Museum and Library of Congress.

Over coffee I find articles on Gilgamesh —

Sumerian, you know — and Tom de Quincey,

opium-eater; slowly I approach omniscience.

Stephen Hawking could teach me nothing.

Einstein? I would have loved to chat.


And the disciplines — across the population

one for every seven souls on earth.

Kundalini, Zen, Iyengar, squats and lunges,

mindfulness for scatterbrains, loosening up

for starchies, how to get and grasp the now.

I click, I copy, I get the posture right.

All departments of the self unite and sigh.


So much can be clicked and done —

does anything resist the search, say God?

At once I find him her or it defined,

with lists of attributes and qualities

both dry and wet: justice and compassion;

not material or spiritual, says one site.

Info piles on info — I crave more.


Clickety clack, the mouse is scurrying,

I can’t decide what to try downloading:

a library of sounds is there, smells not yet.

Our fingertips will walk to all experiences

including the divine — but what’s the guarantee?

If it feels like God, can I say it is?

I wish I’d never clicked for Ouagadougou.



While I was musing

(Psalm 39)


While I was musing I heard scratching noises,

faint, bothersome, at the mind’s edge,

rather like mice nibbling and scuttling,

or polter-somethings working through the ceiling.

Then my nostrils tingled — hints of a smell,

or one remembered or imagined.


We musers are too easily distracted —

I couldn’t find the track I’d beaten through the chaff,

to do with family stuff I think: regret, some guilt,

how to escape or neutralise them?

Muse, we sluggards, till the dying of the light,

or — whichever is sooner — till boredom rules.


I close my eyes, the slow movie changes.

Thin puffs of smoke rise up, seen virtually,

eddying about, caressing, threatening.

No sign of where they came from,

but apparently they’re going somewhere.

I want that feeling too — let me follow.


Musing, meditating, contemplating

can be traps to lure us to vainglory,

but here in this sunroom monk’s cell

my grip on ego, or its on me

is loosening perhaps, in smoky trails.

I am so quiet it almost hurts.


What is The Way? I’d settle for a way

out of old confusions, rustier with age —

I thought by now they’d be untangled.

Our rock in ages past has gone to sand;

but wait, I hear a clear crackling sound:

While I was musing the fire kindled.



Learning through suffering?


Praise God for my recovery

from fever, aches and dripping nose.

I tried to learn through suffering,

but what precisely have I learnt?


That bugs once resident will flourish

in our warm receptacles, and colonise

those body parts we hoped were safe,

turning useful bits to liabilities.


That fever’s fantasies are not creative,

worth only an unfunded D-grade movie.

The whirls and skirls are best expelled

to airy nothingness, or down for compost.


That every time you long to die

you should not make a plan to do it.

You’d miss too many cups of tea,

and possibly be introduced to God.


That aching joints are preferable to none,

makeup can be smeared on pale cheeks,

and wellness acted out for audiences.

Revelling in symptoms can increase them.


That if you squib on taking up a cross,

it will impose itself again, in form more dire.

So be a woman, or a man, make this your time,

suffer now, the benefit is in the mail.


Jesus showed us in Gethsemane,

and so did Auntie Joy in North Ward 5 —

not so much nobility as sense:

what you can’t avoid, endure with grace.



Rodney WetherellRodney Wetherell of Melbourne has written many radio features in the past, and more recently some articles and poems. He is a church-going Anglican of sceptical bent.

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Topic tags: Rodney Wetherell, poetry



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Existing comments

I love this from a church-going Anglican of sceptical bent. Psalm 39 (KJV) A prayer for self-understanding. To the chief musician, even to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. I'm inordinately attached to that book.
Pam | 01 September 2020

Ha Ha. A rare gift, being able to bring a smile out of discomfort and/or pain, whilst upholding the honour and glory of God and flying the poetic flag. Genius! Thank you.
Pirrial Clift | 01 September 2020

I enjoyed these deeply thoughtful, theological poems. How true it is that Google may have endless facts - but its wisdom is limited. The poet's insight into suffering is well conveyed. I love the line " I am so quiet it almost hurts".
Bill R | 03 September 2020

I relished your imagery - winced and smiled and admired your skill.
Kath H | 04 September 2020

Poems like these ensure religious verse enjoys a good reputation. Thanks, Rodney.
John RD | 04 September 2020


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