Anselm Kiefer, Die Ungeborenen (The Unborn), 1978. Acrylic, shellac emulsion and lead on paper collage laid on canvas, 170 x 189 cm. Private collection, Switzerland.jpg

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence for which music alone finds the word,
And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities—
We cannot speak.

A curious boy asks an old soldier
Sitting in front of the grocery store,
“How did you lose your leg?”
And the old soldier is struck with silence,
Or his mind flies away
Because he cannot concentrate it on Gettysburg.
It comes back jocosely
And he says, “A bear bit it off.”
And the boy wonders, while the old soldier
Dumbly, feebly lives over
The flashes of guns, the thunder of cannon,
The shrieks of the slain,
And himself lying on the ground,
And the hospital surgeons, the knives,
And the long days in bed.
But if he could describe it all
He would be an artist.
But if he were an artist there would be deeper wounds
Which he could not describe.

There is the silence of a great hatred,
And the silence of a great love,
And the silence of a deep peace of mind,
And the silence of an embittered friendship,
There is the silence of a spiritual crisis,
Through which your soul, exquisitely tortured,
Comes with visions not to be uttered
Into a realm of higher life.
And the silence of the gods who understand each other without speech,
There is the silence of defeat.
There is the silence of those unjustly punished;
And the silence of the dying whose hand
Suddenly grips yours.
There is the silence between father and son,
When the father cannot explain his life,
Even though he be misunderstood for it.

There is the silence that comes between husband and wife.
There is the silence of those who have failed;
And the vast silence that covers
Broken nations and vanquished leaders.
There is the silence of Lincoln,
Thinking of the poverty of his youth.
And the silence of Napoleon
After Waterloo.
And the silence of Jeanne d’Arc
Saying amid the flames, “Blesséd Jesus”—
Revealing in two words all sorrow, all hope.
And there is the silence of age,
Too full of wisdom for the tongue to utter it
In words intelligible to those who have not lived
The great range of life.

And there is the silence of the dead.
If we who are in life cannot speak
Of profound experiences,
Why do you marvel that the dead
Do not tell you of death?
Their silence shall be interpreted
As we approach them.

– Edgar Lee Masters, ‘Silence’, Poetry (February, 1915), 209–11.

Image: Anselm Kiefer, Die Ungeborenen (The Unborn), 1978. Acrylic, shellac emulsion and lead on paper collage laid on canvas, 170 x 189 cm. Private collection, Switzerland.

[Reposted from]



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pull down the blinds
bolt the doors shut
plaster over the

this is the year of desolation
no communion here
we are not celebrating
our eyes are stinging
deep grief
on this desecrated land

there is a stand
at the doorway
bowl of Nairm’s salty water
large terracotta pot
not with living soil
but full of the ash of the fires
of the last two centuries
in this country

make a paste
smear the lintels
walls and windows
so that the angel of death
might pass over
that we might be freed from the
tyranny of false truths
lazy assumptions
greedy self interest

we can barely comprehend
the extinction of species
those not yet discovered
plants animals and marine life
the pollution of waterways
contamination of soil
all in the

this year of sackcloth
and ashes to unmask and
master consumption
let us gather
together the fragments of truth
as they catch in
eyelashes and throats
and bury them
that this land
and people
might be healed

3 January 2020, Keren McClelland

Photo by Jason Goroncy


Keren McClelland is a Baptist minister currently completing a Master of Urban Horticulture. She works with gardeners in private and community gardens across Melbourne in her business Wagtail Gardens. Keren lives of the land of the Wurundjeri people.

Towards the Quest for an Australian Jesus

Queenie McKenzie, People talking to Jesus in the Bough Shed, 1995.png
Queenie McKenzie, People talking to Jesus in the Bough Shed, 1995. Christof Collection of the Diocese of Broome. This painting was the theme image for Catholic celebrations of NAIDOC Week 2019.

HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, a South African-based open-access journal, has just published a little piece that I wrote:

‘“A Pretty Decent Sort of Bloke”: Towards the Quest for an Australian Jesus’. HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 75, no. 4 (2019), e1–e10. (HTMLEPUBPDF)


From many Aboriginal elders, such as Tjangika Napaltjani, Bob Williams and Djiniyini Gondarra, to painters, such as Arthur Boyd, Pro Hart and John Forrester-Clack, from historians, such as Manning Clark, and poets, such as Maureen Watson, Francis Webb and Henry Lawson, to celebrated novelists, such as Joseph Furphy, Patrick White and Tim Winton, the figure of Jesus has occupied an endearing and idiosyncratic place in the Australian imagination. It is evidence enough that ‘Australians have been anticlerical and antichurch, but rarely antiJesus’ (Stuart Piggin). But which Jesus? In what follows, I seek to listen to what some Australians make of Jesus, and to consider some theological implications of their contributions for the enduring quest for an Australian Jesus.

The article can be accessed here.




Sacred Solitude

I had thought the tangible empty
the tingling hint the yearning
for palm to palm – an absence
but I begin feel a whisper
Your whisper across my palm
where no other hand will fit,
no other can remain,
in intimate embrace
others feel Your grasp in
the clasping hands with an other, but I –
am I destined for a different
kind of intimate?

not sex not tawdry not ‘in love
with God My Saviour’
this taking hand in hand
this different
I have known much longer
than admitted
without name without voice
for what was clouded before
the forced withdrawal this fogged
fatigue demanded cleared
the way and now as once before
in darkness here we are
here with me You are here
the only one I never
turn away and is that not
the intimate, are You not
the one to hold my hand, the one
who will bear witness, and it has taken
me till now to truly shed
the story I’ve been told
that in that place can only
stand a human?

I hear another story
Hildegard, Julian, Thérèse
tell me another story of being one
whose hand is held by
Holy hand – and by no other
tell me now my story so that I
can feel the whisper
on my palm as Presence.


Sarah Agnew is a storyteller, poet, and Uniting Church minister currently in placement with Canberra Central Parish. Her poetry and liturgy appear in Wild Goose Publications as stand-alone e-liturgies, and in edited anthologies as weekly prayer-poems at Pray the Story. Her most recent published poetry collection is Hold Them Close (Resource Publications, 2018). She lives and works on Ngunnawal country.

An Aged Isaiah Remembers

Chagall - Isaiah, 1956. Lithograph, 31.8 × 24.1 cm.jpg
Marc Chagall, Isaiah, 1956. Lithograph, 31.8 × 24.1 cm. Private collection.

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