Shifting Light: A Poem by Stephen D’Evelyn


Thin sunshine—- this lunchtime over.

Construction workers in fluorescent orange vests and hats

Bustle and flow. We come and go.

The underside of a piled cumulous cloud darkeens.

Desire is more than thwarted will. I stand back.

Above it all that arching slender alder tree

leans away from dark roots into the pure blue, translucent leaves

pale, surprisingly bright in shifting light .

Stephen D’Evelyn

-Born Berkeley, CA, USA
-holds a BA in German Studies and Ancient and Medieval Culture at Brown University and a PhD in Medieval Latin literature from Cambridge
-has held teaching and research positions at Harvard Divinity School, the University of Notre Dame, Providence College,and the University of Bristol
-he and his wife Rachel have three children and live in Bristol, England
-Employed as casework coordinator and equality rep (disability) for the University and College Union branch at the University of Bristol

Shifting Light: A New Poem by Stephen D’Evelyn


Thin sunshine, this lunchtime over.

Construction workers in fluorescent orange vests and hats

Bustle and flow. We come and go.

The underside of a piled cumulous cloud darkens.

Desire is more than thwarted will. I stand back.

Above it all, that arching slender alder tree

Leans away from dark roots into the pure blue — translucent leaves

Pale, surprisingly bright in shifting light.

Skyward, Radiant: a poem by Stephen D’Evelyn

Coming in out of the sunshine I feel jammed up.
Open the pores. Go back outdoors? Eyes ache from broken sleep.
I do go back outside, start again.

That big, still poplar leands slightly into the sunshine
Each small leaf articulated by shadow, the tree stands full and overflowing
At the edge of autumn. Let that tree grow in me

skyward, radiant, earthed, bending,
serene, bight, shadowed and shading,

Why Write: A Poem by Stephen D’Evelyn

Why do we long to write?

For the overspilling joy of the natural world I heard in exotic and rustic Australian scenes of Les Murray,for the yearning and delight of the everyday I resee through Heaney, the passionate and mysterious images and the sheer pull of language, even translated, I tasted in Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill as Englished by Paul Muldoon, or for finding ways to reimagine yourself and your longings I found in Celan, or again for the magisterial sweep and tenderness of heaven andearth seen all at once by Hildegard of Bingen–for all that, poems arrive through images we imagine or compose from things seen and hoped or dreamed.

It’s a sharp blue autumn morning. When I close my aching eyes I relax. The trees in manifold green and gold and orange and crispy brown swirl on the other side of the road, river, field where a few sheep graze on a misty morning as my feet in my sandals get wet somewhere near the Severn.

Stephen D’Evelyn on the Uselessness of Running

Going for my habitual run this morning I find myself thinking over the problem of accountability—the feeling that we have to make every moment count. The result is we always feel behind. Nothing is quite enough. It’s easy then to let sympathy and empathy wear thin, to feel frustrated.

Somehow out in the sunshine with the grass underfoot things can rebalance themselves. Or when I shut my eyes and the eye-pain from the iPhone subsides and I relax, it is easier not to feel I have to strain against circumstances to make good on each moment.

Instead the moments arrive as gifts. It becomes possible if not easier to dwell on what is there and not what isn’t. This is more than a psychological game of glass-half-full. It is a practise of love. It is joyfully accepting others, openly accepting reality, and affirming – reaffirming—the goodness of being itself. It is more than abstract. It may be lived out in love for a soul-mate and differently for any number of friends and fellow creatures.

Running opens the distances. I am not counting my steps or trying to account for them in some way. Yes running is a way to improve my body and relax my mind but running as I do with my visual impairment and my need to be aware of the potential for running into things, falling over, etc., I find that release of running is staying aware even while letting go of the desire to solve puzzles, including how best to make use of the moments.

In employee relations, a realm in which I often find myself trying to solve human puzzles, this is important for the oft-talked-about problem of ‘work-life balance’, work-related stress, bullying and harassment, discrimination, etc. It’s about reseeing things and people for their intrinsic value, their superfluous goodness. People variously disabled by inflexible social systems are often left feeling useless even as they are told they must be independent in various ways. Perhaps the feeling of uselessness is not only negative and imposed, maybe a way in which society oriented around power allows us to feel inadequate, but maybe it’s also true in a positive sense.

Philosopher William Desmond descrbies what he names with the pejorative-sounding ‘idiocy’ as the identity as gift not determined by external valuation. This for me is the love that speeds running. All people are meant to be and by being to incarnate the goodness of the gift of existence. They are not to be used, not to be simple service-providers. People disabled by society may embody this particularly. We see that this actually applies to everyone whatever our current state. The sun and grass are there for all and we need to enjoy and share them.