Following on from my reflections on The Feast of the Holy Innocents, I am posting this poem, as I recall two friends who have graced my life and who had their innocence ripped from them and the consequences they have to now live with.
My first friend was my lodger and was arrested on a suspected rape charge, was found guilty and remains in prison to this day. He was born in the north of England, his father committed suicide, his mother is an alcoholic, he was repeatedly molested and abused as as a child by an Anglican Priest. His brother is a ‘lifer’ for murder I believe, and he was abandoned in his mid teens. I met him when I was leading the youth work at my local Church. He was alcoholic, illiterate and violent, yet when challenged became open to the Gospel. He never stood a chance. Today he is a middle aged man, humbled by his past, grateful to God for forgiveness and confused by the dysfunctional and broken prison system that continues to incarcerates him despite beyond his tariff by three years.
My other friend I met in India, abandoned as a baby he grew up on the streets of Maharashtra. He does not know his birthday. He was adopted by an English couple, who brought him to the UK, where rather than sending him to school they used him as a domestic servant. After repeatedly running away, his legal parents flew him back to India and left him there. He became a street kid, got into drugs and eventually found his way to Sahara House, were he received rehabilitation. The Sahara lawyer and myself worked on getting him his UK citizenship where he now resides. Poor, unemployed, father of a child, he has struggled to reconcile his past to his present day. Dislocated, disenfranchised and disowned by everyone he is still bumping alone along the bottom. Just the other day we met again for the first time in many years, we walked, talked and in the quiet of a local chapel we prayed together.
Both men are broken but have not lost hope, even if it is the smallest candle held in the face of a raging storm.
Who is the Innocent?
He searches for the undiscovered country
Entrapped in a web of desire for escape
Beyond the knowledge of self and sense.
The siren of sexual seduction wooing him to yield to the inevitable
Turn of the tide, change of the season,
Those karmic rhythms of pagan philosophy,
Binding him to a temporary eternity
And the carnal curse of the immediate.
Even those great myths-
Gilgamesh, Arthur, Buddha, Mohammed
With all their history and shadow,
Songs and smells, their calls to prayer,
Their promise of rich opium in paradise
The erotic fantasy of pleasure for the faithful.
Nirvana – the Cobain oblivion of nothingness
And that path through the
Raging fires of chaos and hell – the dragons breath
Could subdue him to yield
To the anarchy of false prophecy.
He searches for truth
Beyond Jung the collective monist
Freud the great neurotic who has so damaged New York.
Beyond Kant and Descartes, the two dimensional philosophy
The great denial of the Great I AM.
He longs to move beyond
The street, shit and dirt
The conspiracy of co-caine and crack
That keeps the young on the hair–trigger of violence
Attempting to discover what they do not really want.
The victims of sophistication
Only brought with privilege and education.
Beyond natural pride,
That hole in the heart surgery of self-obsession
Of those sanctified in their rape.
Innocence lost, becomes
The rite of passage to adulthood –
The self-reliance of masturbation
The Eucharist of humanities individualisation.
Endless self-obsession, endless self-obsession
Endless contemplation of freedom
Being the fulfillment of his carnal needs.
He longs for a touch that holds nothing more than innocence.
Innocence what is that?
His birth, his death?
Did he walk Innocent Street once?
Does it have name?
Tir-nan-og, The Fallow Lands,
The Great Hunting Fields,
Heaven to him creates pain, the pain of not knowing perfection
For he yearns to be what he cannot be
For you cannot see God and live…
In the squeeze of his despair he sees
The gate of the Undiscovered Country-
Humility, Grace, Peace, Freedom.
He cannot escape this cross,
This horror, the horror, the fucking horror
Of living in the darkness of God.
All his roads, schemes, desire
Sins, perjuries lead to this place.
The horror of the innocent slain-
In every gas chamber, slum street
Prison cell, dying room, and battlefield.
In every adulterous hotel room, paedophile hostel,
Prostitute street corner, gay bar and fetish whipping post
The innocent are slain,
The INNOCENT is slain.
In the death that follows sin
Is the cry from the harrowed heart,
In the name of love his innocence was killed
In the name of love the INNOCENT was killed-
The undiscovered country discovered
In the INNOCENT that was slain.