Stanley Spencer paints like a grounded angel;
his Jesus sprawls upon the earth
as one who is at home in the wilderness and humble.
His sad face broods distractedly
over the red hen gathering her precious chicks.
His thoughts will not be contained
within the picture’s frame.
At one with creation,
and aware of the complex threads
of interdependence between its creatures,
bird and insect, fox and fowl;
he understands darkly the pain and the dying
that are life’s unavoidable consequences.
When he departs, the hen will be on her own
and her brood vulnerable once more.
Ah, Jesus, you cannot be everywhere;
you will have to allow ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’*
to find her own balance;
and you will have to trust
that those whom you have called
will continue to weepingly reach with love
to Jerusalem’s waiting children, and all the others.
* In Memoriam A.H.H., a poem by Alfred. Lord Tennyson
© Ken Rookes