Phillip Medhurst

Wisdom from a Gnostic Sage

Category: Poetry

Later Pieta (Michelangelo)


I bear this weight with dignity,

For meaning is in symmetry –

Or so it seemed that way, when I

Could easily command plasticity.


I chiselled him – the crucified –

As handsome then: a slumbering lord,

And Mary still resplendent in

Her prime, and poised, and aureoled


In draperies. But now he droops

As heavy as a corpse will be,

And she, wrapped up against the cold,

Just clutches at this clod, her son.


I had to come in person and

Join in this undertaking, but

I’m growing old, and now don’t know

Where beauty is. And that’s the truth.



The Word


Between the bone and marrow

Penetrates the arrow

Of your Word. And so

Salvific poison spreads.


Once it takes hold

All worldliness contracts

To lodge that head

Below my heart.


There is no antidote,

For – sweet Mercury –

The chemistry must kill

What kills, then save outright.


This unevaded shaft

Invades me. I must yield.

For once it has arrived,

It lives and thrives.






I curse the day on which my so-called friend,

Persuaded by my sisters, chose to come

And bellow at me in my cosy den

Where I had slept for days all neatly wrapped

In perfumed swaddling-bands. For up ‘til then

My aches and wants and cares were left outside

My fortress sealed against the world and time.

But now I am re-born with my old bones.

Conclusion to my life has all been robbed:

I must endure the painful swell again.

Though I am made a sign I now repent

The impulse of my blood which leapt too quick,

For peace by any should not be disturbed

When it by natural means has been conferred.

When brute creation first brought me to birth,

I felt no obligation. Flesh and all

I made of it was mine. But now each breath

Compounds my debt to an impatient god.

Aquero (Lourdes)


Within this cave I heard “That Thing”

Disclosing how our prayers

Could kindle light, transfiguring

Those crippled by their cares.


And thus re-made, a sluggish flow

Could spring to healing spate.

Old bones could pave the way to show

Changed flesh, immaculate.


Illumined by the moon, the night

Revealed to preternatural sight

An azure cincture round the earth

As clay, by grace, brought Hope to birth.



Teresa of Avila


A cherub pressed me to my knees:

He held a flaming spear.

He struck again, and then again:

As much as I could bear.

I soon abandoned all desire

For this sweet pain to cease.

No other bliss compares to this

Felicitous disease.

I greet this torment willingly.

I fondly hug the wound.

Love’s quarry, breathless, flees no more,

For she is run to ground.






Incandescent lamp-posts glow

Brightly through the shower of snow.

The tombstones, wet,

Reflect a flash

Of fake resuscitation.

The pale scene vaunts

Beauty unmarred,

Unstained by obscene flesh.

How perfect and pristine! –

Unspoilt by bestial notions

Of God dropped in the hay,

And livestock’s smoky breath

Set to thaw Death.




Sam found a little knife

While wand’ring in the ward.

When nurses tried to truss

The old man to a chair,

He cut their knotted tape

And made good his escape.


But is he strong enough

To grab with steady hand

The starched lapel of Life-

In-Death’s white coat and crash

That cranium’s empty dome?

That way, he might get home.



Noli Me Tangere (to Mary Magdalene)


To me it seemed a comforting idea,

Too welcome, too sublime to be untrue

That love and meaning could thus rendez-vous:

Be gazed upon, and touched.


But doubts persist that I imagined Him.

When He did not appear I then assumed

A love that God in fact was loath to show

Unto The Crucified.


Yet can there be conclusion to my grief

If I can never cling to one who walks

Within the graveyard of my dreams, with voice

Unsilenced by his pain?


And does my vision promise me too much?

Does Christ Himself recoil from ill-placed trust,

Compelled to say, “Noli me tangere” –

That flesh can never tarry.






O Christ, thy crown is broke in two pieces:

Give half to me, O give half to me.

O Christ thy cloak is riven in pieces:

Give some to me, O give some to me.


And I will mould a smaller crown,

And patch a cloak for me.

And I shall go down, down,

Down unto the sea.

And the sea shall part for me.


He Descended into Hell


My heart goes down to Hell with him,

Though I must shut my eyes

To what he sees. I fear the dark,

But trail with quiet tread

Lest he looks back,

And weakening, lets me cling to him.


For he has work to do within

That senseless void, and I

Must be a hovering thing and hope

That he will see the light

Again, and say

That unmade, made again, is good.