Quaker Poetry Reading – Sybyl Ruth

Quaker Poetry Reading – Sybyl Ruth

Sibyl Ruth is a previous poet laureate of Birmingham and a couple of years ago she presented a Radio 4 programme on Quaker Poets.  She has had work previously published with Iron Press, Five Leaves, and translations in The Guardian. She has an affinity for second-hand bookshops, American swing dancing, and walks in the countryside. Her best ideas arise while in the bath, an inconvenience she has mastered with a towel and quick dash for writing utensils. Recently she has been translating German poetry written by her great aunt while in a concentration camp. Her delightful, prize-winning, poem A Song of Jean is below.  Tickets are £5.00.

You are welcome to turn up to either event at the last minute – and even more welcome to let Rob (01284 701947) know in advance that you would like to come so that there are enough chairs set out and enough soup in the tureen!

A Song of Jean

Let my tongue and keyboard both proclaim the power of Jean.
For in the meeting house, Jean gets to her feet often and ministers
with a voice that is a clanging gong.
She drives away false peace, awakens us.
Teach us not to fear becoming caught in the long diversions of Jean’s thoughts, lost in the ring road of her speech.

When appointed hour is done, may we engage Jean in conversation
and not run away from her in the lobby for some invented reason.

Let us acknowledge the aging of Jean
who doesn’t enjoy being eighty
but wishes to go on as she did at thirty.
Allow us all to accommodate Jean’s fury,
listening with tenderness to her shouts and rants
Jean’s demands for help. Her refusal of help that’s offered.
Those cries of No. No I can do it. I can manage.

May we make time to watch over Jean
for she mislays her spectacles, her watch, her keys, her purse.

Help us to worship the Spirit that shaped the hands of Jean,
hands that once tied knots, hammered tent pegs, peeled thousands of potatoes.
Jean’s hands now in their fleecy gloves, their knobbly, twisted, arthritic fingers,
hands that can no longer do buttons, whose buttons are done wrong.
frantic hands that keep on searching bags and rattling papers.

Jean has been diminished, yet we shall magnify Jean’s name.
Lead us to esteem properly the engine that is Jean’s body
the darkness of her teeth.
the hairs of her head, white and coarse as dune grass
her stertorous breath
her bent back
her slumped chest.
Also let us praise Jean’s black-handled stick that likes to slip from her grasp and hit the floor with a great clatter.

May we remember always the muchness of Jean’s mind
Her mind that carries those seas from which we crawled in the beginning
that holds those caverns which shall open to receive us at our end.

May glory and honour belong to Jean, and every day that remains to her be blessed.