Excerpts from Crooked Smoke:
This Silk Road caravanserai’s a young
cathedral, where candle-light intensifies
the darkness of the over-arching space.
And here the stately dervishes are dancing,
each one a world and emptied of himself,
in grave and slow rotations belling out
the cotton skirt that represents the shroud
of ego. Thus unselved, they all revolve
around one common centre. As they gyrate,
the right hand facing upwards to receive
the gifts of heaven, the left one down to give,
each moves about the pivot of his heart.
A pause and change of music. Each in turn
bows to the master and his fellows. This
is the decorum and the courteousness
of men who live under the eye of heaven.
The dance resumes and all in order move,
in otherness, together, turning in
their starry wheels, their concert patterning
a cosmic courtesy, devised by love:
‘Whoever you may be, come, even though
you are an infidel or worship fire.
Our brotherhood is not one of despair,
so come. Whatever you have done, come so.’
Thomas More’s First Step in Heaven
“Your first step in heaven was a surer thing” – Tony Cosier
Who met More on his first step in heaven? Why,
who else but William Tyndale, time
being nothing in that Kingdom! (Eternity
makes nonsense of anachronism.)
More carried “Utopia” under his arm,
when Tyndale presented him with his own
New Testament, richly printed on vellum,
just like the one he sent to Anne Boleyn –
over whom More had lost his head or, rather,
over not submitting to the King as Head
of the English Church. But not before
he’d instigated the vindictive bid
to have Tyndale killed by treachery.
Who was befriended, betrayed the next year
by the dead More’s fanatic, faithful spy,
garotted and burnt on a Flemish bonfire.
Men of their time, in their integrity
they both died martyrs, whatever they had done.
More took the book, found sturdy clarity
in the plain style, not unlike his own,
such that ploughboys might understand, might
learn first-hand God’s freedom. And did he,
in that new freedom, doubt whether he’d been right?
“Wherever and whoever we may be,”
More thought, “all equal in the love of God,
our righteousnesses testify the most
against us.” He took a small step forward,
his first in heaven. The two men embraced.
© 2011 Nicholas Bielby