Writer and storyteller

bear 200

The Worship of Place

The first draft of this piece was recorded in the early summer of 2018. I had recently started carrying a small dictaphone around with me, finally admitting to myself that carrying a notebook out walking with me was just a drag. Recording words and thoughts and images, speaking them rather than writing them down: it seems altogether more sympathetic than putting my head down and scribbling. I have all manner of thoughts about the difference between silence and the blank page. I'll save them for a blog-post.

This is one of the first pieces that was written this way. I still write with pen and paper, and sitting at the computer, too, but I'm interested in what happens when I use my voice instead of my hand. Let me know what you think.

You can find The Worship of Place in the recently-published Falconer's Joy from Hedgespoken Press.

The Worship of Place

There is a temple I know whose roof is made of sky.
On its ceiling are painted clouds and stars
And the rooms and corridors are made of leaves and branches;
Its doors are open to all people, day and night.
Anyone may enter, whether or not they listen
To the wise words spoken within.

I know a synagogue through which a river flows
Against boulders inscribed with scriptures of moss,
Where salmon leap in exaltation and wild doves sing.
The rabbi has a beard of green-grey lichen and
His prayers are carried on the gurgling silver stream.

I know a mosque in which every direction is sacred.
Within that holy place, I see the face of the beloved
Beneath every stone and in the heart of every flower.
Fallen oak leaves are the flurries of the faithful, dancing;
The call to prayer is sung upon the whirling, wild wind.

The priestess of this shrine bars entry to no one;
She greets me in silence and in silence I depart.
Everyone is welcomed in for worship;
The congregation of all creatures give praise
And offerings to the hallowed sanctuary;
The object of their veneration is the world itself.

When I arrive in this boundless cathedral,
With my eyes unclouded by guile or cunning,
I know the presence of such exquisite beauty
And a joy so intense it’s almost unbearable.

I fall over myself trying to find the best way to worship;
I press my back against the trunk of a broad tree
Or a tower of cracked, stacked stones;
I tell my confession to the twisted heather,
And bow down before the yellow-flowered gorse;
I renew my vows in the presence of the damsel fly
And receive the blessing of the magpie and the wren.  
All the while, skylarks carry my prayers to heaven.

At the altar of this great temple,
There is a fountain, invisible to my eyes.
If my worship is whole-hearted, I am washed
Clean of sorrow and all my restless thirst
Is quenched.

Standing in this sublime sanctuary,
I am cracked in two and an old well
Bubbles in my heart once again.
The water is so clear and delicious,
I cannot keep it to myself.

Will you come with me to that fountain now
And fill your cup of longing from this endless, untamed spring?


Share this page with your friends:

If you'd like to support me in my writing, please click the button below and buy me a few minutes writing time while I juggle the demands of parenting, running Hedgespoken travelling storytelling theatre and staying sane in this strange crucible that is 21st century life.

Thank you!


Support Tom's writing through a one-off or monthly donation of reindeer milk


Tom's work available from Hedgespoken Press