The Thinking Poet


The Sign of Jonah

Early Easter Sunday

Children in the Caucasus and Cornwall,

In Palestine, the Pampas and Peru,

In India and Zambia and Hong Kong and New York

Brought home babbled talk about a man in White.


He was a happy man.

We found him by the rocks where we play hide-and-seek all day.

He joined the game and romped with us

Then laughing, went away.


He was a gentle man who met us in the woods above the sea

Where the crocus grows in clusters with the wild daffodil.

We picked a bunch and gave it him,

He smiled and kissed us all.


He was a solemn man, but kind.

We met him on the hill from where you look down on the town.

He took our hands and helped us on the slippery, sliding slope,

And all the while he gazed below

But words he never spoke.


He was a warrior on a horse of dazzling white.

He galloped out of nowhere as we trotted on our mules;

He sang a sort of war song, though he had no words or gun,

It made us want to follow him and join in all the fun.


He stood upon a mountain top

Outshining sun and snow

Like the cross upon the great Cathedral Church.

And as we watched he seemed to melt away like early mist,

But we stood there, for our eyes were blinded so.


He was a good man, bearing bowls of rice and fish.

He said he came in answer to our wish.

We thanked him in a hurry

Then we gobbled up the food.

He had gone when we had eaten,

Will he think us very rude?


Four little dark kids down from Harlem

Simon and Andrew, James and John,

Were paddling their boats in Central Park

When the stranger waved, and cried “Come on”.


At the Rockefeller Centre some Puerto Rican children

Met his eyes, caught his smile

And tagged on too.


As they entered 42nd Street

A score or more of dancing feet

Leapt round him as did David’s at the Ark.

And at Grand Central Terminus

The fuss they raised was GLORIOUS

That Easter Sunday morning in New York.


The motley band grown larger

Surged on towards East River;

They were drunk with joy, and higher than the Chrysler.


As they passed the UNO building

They were singing, loudly SINGING

And the echoes from the slab went ringing out across the world.


Later, parents listened in that dim, distracted way

That they cultivate when hearing rigmaroles.

They daily have to humour all the cackle and the prattle with good grace.

It takes a child’s eye to discern God face to face.