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.

More like the voice of angels

I am not sure why angel voices are those of women or of boys when the named angels are Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. But if I am not very much mistaken, the voice of the Webb Sisters is absolutely heavenly as it bears the gravelly voice of Leonard Cohen to the heights of beauty. For me this voice of the angel from John Tavener’s Eternity’s Sunrise sounds like it’s from the very heart of heavenI wonder if this is how angels sound. They seem to have all the time in the world.Friends Christopher Burkett and Jayne Shepherd have shared this story illustrating the power of words – surely the touch of an angel. (I wonder why Church of England bishops can’t sound and look like this).

For the record, the Webb Sisters sing (and pray) on Leonard Cohen’s new album Old IdeasWith Raphael (angel of healing) they sing Come Healing.

O gather up the brokenness
and bring it to me now
the fragrance of those promises
you never dared to vow
The splinters that you carry
the cross you left behind
come healing of the body
come healing of the mind
And let the heavens hear it
the penitential hymn
come healing of the spirit
come healing of the limb
Behold the gates of mercy
in arbitrary space
and none of us deserving
the cruelty of the grace
O solitude of longing
where love haas been confined
come healing of the body
come healing of the mind
O see the darkness yielding
that tore the light apart
come healing of the reason
come healing of the heart
O troubled dust concealing
an undivided love
the heart beneath is teaching
to the broken heart above
O let the ehavens falter
and let the earth proclaim:
come healing of the Altar
come healing of the name
O longing of the branches
to lift the little bud
o longing of the arteries
to purify the blood
And let the heavens hear it
the penitential hymn
come healing of the spirit
come healing of the limb