John Dunn

John Dunn original writing
Book sales
Thought Pieces
Oxford to Cambridge


Next Entry

Brittle crystal, that’s all it is

Monday, 11 October 2021 at 21:37

Broken glass on Dr John Dunn. Glass is such a potent symbol of division. In reality, it is a state of mind. 'Brittle crystal, that’s all it is.' Or is that still the case? This was written before internet shopping had taken hold. The glass in question now is the screen at which you stare. The era of window gazing has gone. You now have company tokens to spend at the company store.

Brittle crystal, that’s all it is

Glaziers came to reinsert the glass,
Between the goods produced and the producer class
That had released a labour crystallised,
Reclaiming their dead materialised;
And in doing so found a new wisdom
In a release that went far beyond freedom.

That August night the shops were open late,
No locked door was protected by the state.
The labour that lay frozen, petrified,
Was released from the fetish deified,
Like so many waking wives of Lot,
Or victims the Midas touch forgot.

The disillusioned dead rose up at night,
Reclaiming the greed that encouraged the fight
Waged by their offspring for their own Spring.
‘Brittle crystal, that’s all it is. Now fling
Your bricks into the pane and dare to reach in,
You have chains to lose and a world to win.’

The lumpen knew more than you ever will;
Stuff your shock and disgust, I’m with them still.
There’s nothing here that I’m too proud to shred,
Keep your board reports and the papers I dread,
And do preserve me from the parting speech
Until I’m well beyond the glaziers’ reach.

© John Dunn.


Sunday, 10 October 2021 at 21:59

Church ruin on Dr John Dunn. A ruined church, a wartime atrocity and loss - these things prompted me to pull these words together twelve years ago. I cycled to the ruined church of Knaptoft. I was alone and the peace was heavy upon me as I pondered the inevitable loss that we all must face: loss in its many guises.


I turned back and there it was,
The well bucket, dragged across the pit of my stomach.
Please, I said, please don’t tauten the rope.
You’re leaving me.
Come back, come back.

Found, a short distance down a once frequented lane,
To nowhere now, but lives and tears then,
The stones where once men grovelled for life,
Facing steel and prayed for life
Facing the fiercer edge of eternity.

Is this the well bucket, lowered again
That I might connect with the searcher,
The delver, the hunter,
The diviner, the fisher?
The rope tautens

Touching the stones here
Is touching the wall of the well,
The dark, dank, dripping well.
Above the little circle of light, far away.
It is too slippery a climb,
To even contemplate a life in the light.

I’m resigned to that dot,
That imperceptible dot
That those frightened and hunted
And retreating men saw too,
As the rope tautened.

You’re leaving me.
Come back, come back.

© John Dunn.

Traps and ramifications

Saturday, 9 October 2021 at 22:14

AA Road Book on Dr John Dunn. Traps and ramifications

There follows a quaint piece from an AA Road Book of about 1920. I like it because it clings to the all-important link between cycling and the early motoring era. Touring cyclists reinvigorated the old turnpike road system of the coaching and pre-steam train era, bringing to life some of the ailing coaching inns along the way. The transition from cycling to motoring was not a break for everyone, but rather a transition, indicated by the value placed upon maps by cyclists, which transferred readily to a motoring context. I liken the new “public” of motorists, who never had a cycling apprenticeship, to the new generation of motorists today, who slavishly follow their sat-navs without a clue to their whereabouts, or knowledge of the innumerable alternative routes that are available on those strange and mysterious things called maps.

AA Road Book

Within the terms of years allotted to a single generation the motor-car, the motor-bicycle, and the motor-coach have revolutionised touring in England and Wales. Motorists of to-day who were cyclists of yesterday start with some advantage, and as these are many, when they took to themselves a car they were well primed against the traps that the road sets for the unwary and also in the ramifications of the road, which make veritable mazes of some English counties, as Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. But as motoring waxed cycling waned, so that with motorists developing from a class into a public many of the new motorists, denied the educational advantages of the now-despised push-bicycle, find themselves in a new world.

© John Dunn.

Love and False Redemption

Thursday, 7 October 2021 at 22:16

Climbing the scala on Dr John Dunn. Whatever was I thinking! I suppose you might call this freestyle... with attempted rhyme, amongst other things. Yes inspired by the Golden Girl, but also afield of golden wheat near the turning for Glympton Park, near Rowsham Gap; and also by the sculpture Fire Cross, by Graham Carey.

Love and False Redemption.

In the Scala by John Climacus, the twenty third step is
on mad pride and unclean and unmentionable thoughts.

Climbing, ever nearer, reaching step twenty three,
My lost and lonely way did wind and curl;
I was searching for her who would save me,
For a sight of the Golden Girl.

My eyes fell upon a field of wheat, so pliant before the wind.
But my face felt the breeze as a brutal caress
And as I started to undress
I thought of all the times I’d sinned.

I fell into that golden sea
And rolled and crushed those ripened ears.
My madness bare for all to see,
I dismissed all the usual fears.

Scratched and reddened by the ripened wheat
I turned to face the vale below.
Winnowed in the wind and rising to my feet,
I screamed out loud - my Golden Girl, my Golden Girl,
Only you will know.

My scream was a kestrel released to the sky,
It hung, an aural cross on high,
Symbolic of my own despair,
Echoing across the vale,
Carried to the garden where
Each scream was felt as a driven nail
By the Golden Girl.

She cut my words down from the cross
And laid them on the ground.
She kissed each one so tenderly and, without a sound,
She organised them patiently, caressing them so gently
That the meaning rose for all to see,
My Golden Girl, My Golden Girl, I’m found.

I thought I was saved
By the Golden Girl, in pride before the fall.
But I was enslaved
By her mocking eyes and I was in her thrall.
Subjected to her flying flail,
My pleas echoed across the vale,
My pleas rang out to no avail,
And she brushed me off,
My Golden Girl, my Golden Madonna.
Like a husk in the scattered chaff,
I was blown off the Scala.

© John Dunn.

No Loss of Discernment

Wednesday, 6 October 2021 at 20:48

Desert hermit on Dr John Dunn. Some other person wrote this poem; a man from a different time, when people read other things called books. Some other person wrote this poem. He was living through a period of great change, when the old views were challenged, and new perspectives pushed their way in. It was a time of great realisation and danger- yes danger; everything might have been lost. He was close to death, which probably meant he was close to new life. Is close near enough? Is close all that is possible? "Gift of life" indeed.

No Loss of Discernment

I hold a secret, a solitude of my being,
Which God alone can penetrate and understand.

Being apart from the mass of other men,
Leaves me able to love others as I ought.

I am aware that false solitude is self-centred.
And no longer shrink from the good things in life
Or other lives, because I need not possess them.

My soul is drawn towards the desert,
But I no longer object to life in the city.

I will not travel far unless I leave my words behind,
For silence is the destination.

If I poured my life out in useless words,
There’d be nothing to hear from the depth of my heart.

Loving God leads me to love the silence,
For there will be no loss of discernment.

I’ll avoid chatter, and not fear life as if it were death,
For silence makes death a servant and friend.

As the eloquence of death and human poverty
Confront the riches of divine mercy,
I discern the risen Lord and his gift of life
in the depth of my soul.

© John Dunn.

Un Livre

Tuesday, 5 October 2021 at 21:46

Book explosion on Dr John Dunn. It is a strange feeling to come across a poem that you have composed, and yet have long since forgotten. I have no idea when or where I came across the words by Mallarmé that prompted this effort; and effort it must have been, given the complexity of ideas, no matter what you might think of it as a poetic piece.

Un Livre

Head tail and fore-edge turn as one cover
On a life-canto and, like church bells in
Thunder the familiar becomes strange.
The darkness I confront alone rings out
As a breaking wave on the shore that lays
Itself across the sands for the beach to
Inspect, at the turning point, before it
Scurries back to the deep. The sea petals
Opened and you rose erect to release
The bird, wings on fire, screaming as it fell
Into the sea. It was a brief exchange
Of souls. Lips kissed the dahlia shadow,
Yet drew back from the squeezed head of black seeds.
Tout au monde existe pour aboutir à un livre—
The mystery the grace and all the universe.

"Tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre." "Everything in the world exists in order to end up in a book" Stéphane Mallarmé.

© John Dunn.

The Turning

Monday, 4 October 2021 at 22:27

Farm St Kenox on Dr John Dunn. Written following my reverse pilgrimage from St David's to the Cleddau Vale in Pembrokeshire, back in 2013. A memorable journey.

Farm at St. Kenox. On the bridleway towards the ford across the Eastern Cleddau.

The Turning

The one to whom the dove was sent, forgive me,
It hurts to retrace the pilgrimage path from the shrine.
There was no awareness of existence in
The life of the everyday, until Aidan
Into the Cleddau Vale could let truth shine.
Was it guilt or chance that led him there?
Did Non look upon this same stone cross in the round,
And were her thoughts upon the struggle of birth?
And was death preached upon the tump at St Kenox?
Aenon’s baptismal pool beheld more faith
Than all the cathedrals of Christendom had dared.
The cooling spring will wash away presumptions,
No longer now the unspoken may remain
A mystery, though long it has been veiled.
                    the great forgetting,
                                                    the turning.
I’d rather have my books, exclaimed Faustus.
I’ll gather around me great numbers of teachers to say
What my itching ears want to hear; and then turn away
From the truth and look instead aside to myths.
And the shadow of the wingéd dove brushed his face.


A dove alighted upon the shoulder of St David as a symbol of God’s grace.
There is a shrine to St David at St David’s cathedral.

Karl Jaspers insisted that our awareness of existence is not revealed in everyday life but only when we encounter our limits: in death, struggle, guilt or chance.

St Aidan lived and studied at the St David’s monastery. He brought Christianity to Llawhaden and the valley of the eastern Cleddau. Llawhaden was on the pilgrimage route to St David’s.

St Non, the mother of St David. The round cross can be seen in the chapel on the site where she gave birth to St David.

A dissenter lived and preached in what is now the working farm at St Kenox.

The baptismal pool is still to be seen near the roadside at Aenon Baptist Church, South Pembrokeshire.

Scarcely permitted is it to awaken the dead.
No longer now the unspoken
May remain a mystery
Though long it has been veiled;

(Hölderlin, Germania)

The uncanniness of human beings is that they alone are capable of "catastrophe," in the sense of a reversal turning them away from their own essence.
(Martin Heidegger)

These metaphysics of magicians
And necromantic books are heavenly.
(Christopher Marlow’s Faustus)

Instead,to suit their own desires, they will gather around them great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
(II Timothy 4.3-4)

© John Dunn.

Previous Entries
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
11 14
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
Website design and CMS by WebGuild Media Ltd
This website ©2009-2022 John Dunn