The Words on my Face

Here are some comments, some of the introduction, and some poems from my latest book The Words on my Face: poems to help you open to God in the silence

Appreciation for ‘The Words on my Face

Pete Armstrong’s poems are loving, funny, serious, humble and often self-deprecating. You will feel both moved and challenged by Pete’s journeying in stillness to seek out God and to find a place of spiritual wellbeing. Where Pete has gone, we too can follow, and his concluding essay provides a generous insight into how to begin the journey.

Robert Cohen, writer and blogger

I like the language, wholesome and unambiguous, the clarity. I salute Pete looking stuff in the eye, turning towards it. He manages to share moments of insight and grace with feet well grounded, giving form and stability to the weightless.

Jane Coatesworth: UK Dharma teacher in the Zen Buddhist tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh

Poetry remains an art form so powerful that often a poet’s job is merely to harness an energy and put it into words. Pete Armstrong does this beautifully.
Pete’s unique voice speaks of a connection to God that very few have.

 Darryl Lewis: artist manager in the music industry

If you want to be in tune with your deeper self you can find help in these poems.  You will find guidance as to how to meet yourself, and God in you, in experiences like bathing in a spring or watching for a badger at twilight.  You will find encouragement to keep still and attentive and persist in your search for clarity in times of dryness and confusion.  You will learn how fun and light-heartedness can help in your quest for meaning.  These poems will help you to grow.

Jo Dales, Quaker scholar and joint clerk of Calf Cop Meeting, North Yorkshire.

Introduction

 This book is a selection of poems about what happened when I sat in the silence and opened myself to God.

In writing these (and other) poems I developed a process that worked like this:

  • I would sit in meditation and be aware, as best I could, of what was happening
  • after a period, I would see if there was a poem that was starting to emerge from that process
  • if so, I would help to shape it into a poem, while remaining in that meditative inner space
  • only when the poem was more-or-less complete did I physically write it down

At the end of the book, if you are interested, you can read a reflection on the links between the spiritual journey and writing poetry, and the particular process through which these poems developed.

I’m human and he’s divine

I invited the Buddha and God into a room.
I smiled at them, and they smiled back.
Aren’t you really the same? I asked.
Well no, said God, he’s human and I’m divine.
Then they both laughed uproariously together.
Naturally I joined in.

Do you have any advice for me? I asked.
Don’t just leave me in a statue on your shelf,
said the Buddha. Take me with you.
When you walk along the path
and see the world through my eyes
reality opens up in a different way.

And don’t just leave me up in heaven,
said God. It’s a bit remote up there.
Take me with you.
When you walk along the path
and see the world through my eyes
all becomes divine.

And are you really omniscient? I asked God.
Well I’ve no idea what dumb-ass question
you’re going to ask next, said God.
But keep them coming anyway, said the Buddha.
I noticed they were both holding their sides.

Aren’t you really the same? I asked again.
Well no, said the Buddha, I’m human and he’s divine.
Then they both laughed uproariously together.
Naturally I joined in.

On Chesil Beach

If God’s first language is silence
his second must be the soft shift of the shingle
on Chesil beach
as early morning waves
fall lightly upon the pebble shore
and swish a little up and shush a little down
and swish a little up and shush a little down.

And if God’s first form is the earth
then a good place to realise this is
on Chesil beach
where you can prostrate yourself at sunrise
burrow your face gently into the shingle
breathe the air through small stones
pull your tongue through polished stones
taste the faint tang of salt
and kiss the delicious earth with your lips
and kiss the delicious earth with your lips.

And if God’s first instinct is love
then a good place to realise this is
on Chesil beach
where infinite waves of energy
roll towards you through the sea
and, leaving the water upon the shore,
roll endlessly on through you
and into the world beyond.
On Chesil beach
love rolls endlessly on through you
and into the world beyond.

If you’ve been in contact

If you’ve been in contact with God
and then lost touch

then nothing
not food nor drink nor fun
not nature nor sea nor sun
not people nor love nor sex
will touch the gloom of loss.

Only God can substitute for God.

Invite God back in
let God smile and return
and then even the dust has meaning.

In this lemon light of a winter dawn

In this lemon light of a winter dawn
make me an instrument of your love.

Shape me as a vessel of your compassion
fill me with love till I overflow
flush from me the dregs of my fear and shame
make of me a jug with a true lip
so that my outpourings may stream
so that the subtle bliss of my happiness may flow
wherever knots of suffering are in need of ease.

In this lemon light of a winter dawn
make me a vessel of your love.

Culbone

I entered Culbone
tiniest of churches
and sat within, consenting to God, to all.

I saw how each thing we say
however stumbling
also contains all that is unsaid.

We may enter any statement
however stumbling
and, listening carefully, hear all that is unsaid
and from there know perfect wholeness
smile-bringer, joy-bringer.

At a certain point in the month we see
low in the darkening western sky
the sliver of new moon
containing in her arms
the faintest reflection of the old moon.

I entered Culbone
tiniest of churches
and found not a space of inadequacy
but an opening to all.

Heart

I said to God,
‘I long for your love so much.
Even though I am a poor soul
if I give you all my heart, will you give me yours?’

And God said to me,
‘I cannot give you my heart
for heart is all that I am
and all that I am, including you,
is heart.’

I wandered in your woods drenched in autumn colour

I wandered in your woods drenched in autumn colour.
I walked a long way then found your door open to me.
I recognised your voice of welcome
calling me in, calling me in.

In your oratory of simplicity and rounded walls
I was bathed in the sweet voices of your sisters
devoted to you, devoted to you.

I recognised your voice of wisdom and was at home.
I sat within your peace, within your peace.

When your bowl of mystery came round
I ate your bread and tasted the sharp tang of your wine.
I took them into my body and my blood.
I know nothing about you, nothing about you.

I wander in your woods drenched in love.
I give myself to your embrace, your embrace.
I wander in your woods drenched in love.
I give myself to your embrace, your embrace.

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