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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, December 20, 2003
    Verse and worse
    Steve and Jenny are inviting all who they send a card to this year, to enter a Christmas Haiku competition. Nice idea. Haikus are three lines, five-seven-five syllables long. I've had a go:
      no room at the inn
      last orders for all young sons
      born in the wrong place
        bethlehem roadblocks
        occupied territory
        peace, come to israel
      light a christingle
      turn on the christmas tree lights
      expel the darkness
    I'm not entirely happy with these. Possibly because I'm not sure haiku fits with Christmas that easily. Haiku is about precision and discipline; the Christmas story is a holy uproar, God turning the world upside down and inside-out as Mary celebrated so well in her 'Magnificat'. Haiku is about clarity and limitation; the way we celebrate Christmas is all mixed-up and open-ended. As Ronald Blythe puts it in his excellent Word from Wormingford,
      God must have special earplugs for Christmas. He sorts out spiritual joy from Saturnalia, and isn't all that surprised at their getting mixed up, humanity being what it is.
    I find those sentiments better reflect my feelings about Christmas today; feelings which make me applaud another kind of verse altogether, this from Richard Tydeman, published (with Blythe's piece) in the Church Times Christmas issue:
      The vicar was leaving the parish;
      He went round to say his goodbyes,
      But had rather a shock when one of his flock,
      A lady, had tears in her eyes.

      "Now there's no need to cry," said the vicar,
      "There has to be changes, you see,
      So you must be strong, and before very long
      They'll send somebody better than me."

      "That's all very well," said the lady,
      Despondently shaking her head.
      "But that's why I'm grieving, for when he was leaving,
      That's just what the last vicar said."
    Will I be using that more than once in my new year 'goodbye' messages? You bet.