What if every word we say never ends or fades away?

What are the words that wake us? What words wake us, make us and break us? These are the questions rattling round my mind today.

Malcolm Guite has a sobering reflection on words in which he reflects on the shadow side of language – he has called it “What if …” (You can hear Malcolm’s reading here). He prefaces his poem with these words from Matthew’s Gospel:

But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?

What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?

What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?

What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering peruasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?

Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.

Malcolm has a new book of poetry being published this month – The Singing Bowl.


I love this poem/parable of Jan Dean’s and the way she/kingdom undermine the man made house building enterprise.


the kingdom of God is like
a man who buys a bargain basement shrub
and plants it in his garden
and when it grows
it is not a small and tidy thing
it is horse chestnut
alive with lime green leaves
and tall pink candle flowers
its roots will wreck the footings
of his house
and when he sees this great tree
shoot into the air
a solid fountain
pouring shushing foliage
and sparking blossom flames
the man’s eyes widen
and he roars with laughter
such is the kingdom of God

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Pentecost is a very special festival. Malcolm Guite’s post here reminds us of the thoroughgoing blessing of God’s love embracing/infusing all the ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire described by Malcolm as four evangelists. Adam is his answer to the question “where on earth?” Like it.

Malcolm Guite

Continuing in my cycle of sonnets for the Church Year this is a sonnet reflecting on and celebrating the themes and readings of Pentecost. Throughout the cycle, and more widely I have been reflecting on the traditional ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire, considering how each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as though the four elements were, in their own way, another four evangelists. In that context I was very struck by the way Scripture expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit through the three most dynamic of the four elements, the air, ( a mighty rushing wind, but also the breath of the spirit) water, (the waters of baptism, the river of life, the fountain springing up to eternal life promised by Jesus) and of course fire, the tongues of flame at Pentecost. Three out of four ain’t…

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