Two poems for Pentecost

Steve Turner, ‘Spiritus’

I used to think of you
as a symphony
neatly structured
full of no surprises.
Now I see you as
a saxophone solo
blowing wildly
into the night,
a tongue of fire,
flicking in unrepeated patterns.

Adrian Mitchell, ‘Goodbye’

He breathed in air, he breathed out light.
Charlie Parker was my delight.

…not, of course, a classically English confusion of aesthetic and theological judgements – I might be tempted to imagine some level of inspiration on that level for Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, but not for anything by Bird Parker. Rather, following the methodology of my former colleague Jeremy Begbie, an attempt to narrate Pentecostal experience of God’s Spirit in musical grammar: it is, I believe, far more like Bird’s instinctive and immediate following of a contextual instinct than the playing, however sensitive, of notes pinned like so many dead butterflies to the pages of a classical score.

Peter, the broken apostle, did not, on the day of Pentecost, perform an endlessly-rehearsed-and-analysed account of theological fact; instead he was granted the ability, born of three years’ exposure to, and indwelling of, the Truth, to improvise in the key of gospel. ‘He breathed in air, he breathed out light…’ – may it be true of me, each time I dare to presume to speak, to faithfully improvise in that same key, and so breath out only light!


  1. RuthG
    May 23, 2010

    Steve have you heard Mnemosyne? Jan Garbarek and the Hikllarid ensemble. One of the tracks on that is a sax playing over and through chanting; I first heard it when Rob Ellis played it at morning prayers, and read the penetcost story. It’s exactly that Steve Turner poem – which I had not come across. Thanks; now the whole thing fuses in my mind, and is a wonderful experience/image

  2. RuthG
    May 23, 2010

    Thnat should of course be the Hilliard ensemble – apologies!

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