Among #poetry types the sonnet is a useful practice ground.

It is useful for a number of reasons. The form is relatively long, allowing themes and ideas to develop, whilst being rather restrictive, forcing hard choices to be made.

The Rose
She went toward the village green dancing
the jigs of May. When she espied laid on
the verge, basking bright in a fairy ring,
the silver pin, the one she gave to John

in troth. 'How come you there?' the maiden asked.
Bending down to pick it up, her finger
caught the point so sharp; her blood unmasked
magic. The wise girl chose not linger

dropped the pin upon the grass. Full speed
she ran along the lane, a blur of skirt
and bobbing curls. The drop of blood now freed,
grew into a little seed. From that petty hurt

finger, pricked, in summer flowers a rose
warm as May, bright as June, red as fire glows.

 It is less a poem. than an series of iambs,  Though there are some pleasing twists in pace, rhythm, and a trap for the unwary in the second stanza.

I am intrigued by the possibilities this form offers for creating other styles, by treating the text as fridge magnets and re arranging them.

Over the past year or so, I have become increasingly interested in Christianity. This included a few months of regular church attendance. There is something rather wonderful about watching a burly, bluff, policeman type leading the singing of Have Thine Own Way, Lord, well it appeals to the adolescent in me anyway. My preference is rather more Hymns Ancient and Modern and King James, than the more modern whigish tambourine waving. But, there are worse ways to spend a few hours on a Sunday.

There is a marvelous book by Robin Lane Fox called, Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine, that comprehensively, and amusingly, offers insight to the context of, and growth of, the early church. And, for instance, explains why when the vicar stood up and launched into his nonsensical homily on marriage, using statistics from an article in the Daily Express, he might have thought he was bolstering his flock; but instead he was chiding them for having carnal relations, and not living a good gnostic life. Interestingly, (and this has nothing to do with the early church) adultery, is not simply 'playing away', in medieval times you could be hauled before the church court, charged with adultery, if you did not have sex with your spouse, or had sex too often.  Off hand, I believe the faithful were required to play the two backed beast (or variations upon a theme) twice a week.

However, the story that interests me most is that of James and Paul/Saul.

You know the one. James gets beaten up in the temple, broken bones are involved, and he and his supporters flee to Damascus. Paul, and his gang, go after them and on the way Paul sees a burning bush, is converted to the true faith and begins writing letters.

The story sparks my interest, for a number of reasons. The historical similarities to events surrounding the foundation of Islam, specifically the split between Shia and Sunni - the followers of James claiming the hereditary principle. But it is also the context of the story. In a  discussion of the Jordan Lead Codices on Coast to Coast (Oh I know, conspiracy theorist) it was observed that rather than this showdown on the Damascus road being a confrontation between two men, and maybe a few hangers on, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of people involved. Suddenly, when seen in this light, it becomes clear why the Jesus Cult was such a problem for the authorities.Not least because the Jesus Cult was not one thing. Especially when one throws into the mix the various loosely related sects, cults and societies, within Judea, Palestine, and the wider region.

In this age of television, it's simple for the powerful to control the message - 98% of scientists agree on global warming right? There's no need to beat up dissenters in the temple, you just don't give them airtime.

In the time of the Christ, whoever you define that to be, or not, controlling the message is not so easy. Especially when there are lots of roaming preachers, and holy men (and women). spreading their message. And, all they have to do is set up shop across the Jordan, or go into the mountains of Samaria, or to Damascus. The 'authorities' are pretty powerless to do much but keep an eye on them, maybe kill them, or just cross their fingers in the hope that out of sight does mean out of mind.

First Meeting
I follow the crowd pulled by curiosity.
The day is hot, even for morning it's hot.
The Jordon shimmers through the reeds, cold green,
licking the foot prints at the water's edge
into flatness. He waits for us, glowing,
on the far bank, hand in welcome to cross.
The new sun dazzles, but some, bright blinded,
enter the water. The splashing of feet dulls
as they reach midstream, their clothes drag them back.
Waist deep, women toss their girdle aside,
rend their simlah, and bare breasted proceed
to receive his welcome. I sit on a dune
as others go across. Some with clothes, folded,
held above their head, naked men, boys, women
sailing infants over in fig baskets.
I do not go. Nor does the carpenter.
He takes stale bread from his bag, breaks it,
gives it to me. I nod. A cheer goes up
over the river as blessings begin.
People dance, sing, hands clap, laughter rings
as one by one these simple folk immerse
themselves, to emerge joyful and saved.
My tongue fishes an unmilled grain from the crust.
Curiosity satisfied, we leave.

Cue random picture to sprinkle the facebooks with jasmine petals

The Blue Book, the kiss with bite, only £1.84