Poem 169 – I Collect People

I collect people.
Not in an album like
a stamp collector, or
macabre jars like some
demented serial killer,
but in my memories.

Childhood friends stand by
eccentric teachers that
inspire and shape my path.
Loved relatives are filed
with heroes of the stage
and teenage heartbreakers.

Congregation members,
that walked with us awhile,
together with neighbours
who passed our window daily,
their names undiscovered.
Did they know each other?

Time to time I take
them out and dust them down,
revisit, reminisce.
These familiar faces,
both intimate and distant,
make up my life’s matrix.
I am in reference to them,
embedded and defined.
There is no island life.

A conversation at church about personalities who have been part of our family over time prompted the phrase ‘we collect people’. This stuck in my head and eventually prompted this poem.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Raj Rana on Unsplash (Original in colour)

Poem 126 – Man of a Thousand Faces

I possess a thousand faces
That’s one for every relationship
One for each time and mood and place
The one you know me by is not
The one recognised by my wife
Or friends or even enemies
The one I wear today is not
The same as yesterday, not quite
Experience has shaped, eroded,
And flexed it, making something new
But which of these is really me?
Are they all? Or none at all?
Is there throughout an essential core
Coded within, like human rock?
Or am I simply jetsam, washed
About by random tides of life

The announcement of the new Doctor got me thinking about the different faces we all wear.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 116 – Mistaken Identity

The bold headline nailed to the billboard shouts
The executioner’s next victim’s name
It reads, ‘Jesus, King of the Jews’, that’s who
Identified, betrayed through a guilty kiss

The leaders rant and rave, ‘This cannot be
Pilate, this is mistaken identity
This man is not our King he doesn’t speak
For us, rewrite your sign once more we plead!’

Mistaken identity, how could that be?
Recall the many things he’s said and done
The signs are there for all to see that this
Is no mere man. He’s the Chosen One

The blind can see, the lame can walk, and those
With leprosy are healed, and deaf ears opened
The dead are raised, the poor receive good news
…Tell me, what else might you expect to see?

Pilate’s response, ‘What I have written, I
Have written, and my sign will not be changed!’
But is this undermined by his cruel nails
That pin it there along with hands and feet?

The sky turns black as up above a final sigh
The one who hangs there drops lifeless and still
And with him hangs the question, were they right?
There surely is no way
That at our hand our God
Could die and find his end
Could we been mistaken?

I’ve been asked to write a poem reflecting on John 19:16-22 from the Bible for today’s Good Friday service. It struck me that in these few verses that like the religious leaders and Pilate we’re being asked the question, just who is this man.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 111 – Circular Identity

Remember childhood years that stretched
Where nothing seemed to change at all
Except our teeth. Remember how
They used to hang on fragile threads
Forever, wiggled by the tongue
Until one day they disappeared?

Eventually a switch was flicked
New genes asserted influence
A sudden surge, the teenage kick
With child and adult overlaid
Doubly exposed awhile before
The hormone shock shook out the child
A whiskey burn that makes us wince

A newborn person stands before
A mirror wondering ‘Who am I?
Where is the manual that informs
Us how to be a grown-up in
This strange and unfamiliar world?’
Until one day a match is made
Where each completes the other’s question

A few years on the subject shifts
A babe becomes its object as
We ask who it might take after
Ironic really as our process
Of metamorphosis has ended
The circle finally has closed
And we’ve become our parents and
The children’s teeth are getting loose

Nature or nurture?

© Ben Quant 2022