Dr Tom Masters




Anthony said, ‘He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: but there is one thing against which he must continually fight: that is, his own heart.’


                                                    ~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers



The Desert of Chalcis, 374 CE



Αυτος γάρ εστιν ή ειρήυη ήμων          ό ποιήσας τα

αμφότερα εν και το μεσότοιχον

του φραγμου λύσας    την εχθραν

εν τη σαρκι αυτου          Αυτος γάρ εστιν ή ειρήυη ήμων

ό ποιήσας τα

αμφότερα εν και το μεσότοιχον

του φραγμου λύσας    την εχθραν

εν τη σαρκι αυτου       Cum enim ad

imaginem et similitudinem

Dei conditi sumus          ex vitio nostro

et personas

nobis plurimas superinducimus






and the wind laughs sand laughs laughs in

the wind Rome seems unreal the

laughter of a dream dreamt in

sand the promise of a dream dunes

of sun blight the laughter of hunger

wild eyed nowhere oasis dreaming




O Lord, have pity.

I’m blind,

Can’t see.

Sand streams my eyes, 

Strains my thoughts to visions.

O Lord, I cannot see.


O Lord, have pity.

My ribs hack through the

Carcass of my chest.

Laughing.  Hungry.

Mad demons, Lord,

In the madness of your sun.


O Lord, have pity.

My skin’s a blister,

Charred from bleeding. 

Dried like your fig tree,

Withered in summer.

O Lord, Lord


I have lost my body

And become my body.


I have lost.


הלכּ        [kā/lă]


העשר             [ré/šá‘]


הש                     [śeh]


רכש                 [šé/ber]


The day you spoke to me

the trees were in flower. 


You came into the garden,

your palla, careless, trailing

on the ground, your eyes,

questioning.  A smiling word,

silent amid the scent of thyme.


And I think, in that moment,

I knew.  Not love, but its likeness,

trapped in water.  Sunlight laughing

in the fountain’s glass.


And I watched you speaking with Rufinus. 

Your words caressing

in the arbour’s shade, tender like blossom. 

An intimate distance of petals

and hands, fragile like touching.


I hated him then. 

The grace of his freedom

caging your smile.  Each gesture

lithe with the bliss of desire. 

Svelte with your innocence. 



העשר –


Are you there?


I can’t see.


There’re snakes here.




I don’t like snakes.

They writhe out of the ground,

blackened coils of sinuous flesh.

Loathsome.  Dancing.

 If you watch them they begin to

blur.  Shed their skin. 

You can see the

tangled birth of limbs,

the writhing,

licking mass of limbs,

the hissing

swirl of silk and arms.

They rouse the

heated breath of sand. 

Sultry.  Yearning.

 Haunches flexing

with a thrash

of heels.

You can feel their

voices bite the air.

Whoring words

through sunlight


The soothing touch

of scented hands.

I can feel

their fingers

snake my hair –

their kiss of

moonlight cool

like water –

the bliss of

drowning –

angels’ wings –

the tenderness

of blossom

falling –

the heady

 musk of

lissom skin –

the tenderness

of blossom

falling –

licking tongues –

angels’ wings –

the agony of


falling –

blossom falling –

tongues of

wings –


tongues of


falling –

blossom drowning –

angels’ wings –

the agony

of moonlight

falling –

licking tongues –

the bliss

of wings –

of tenderness –

of blossom

falling –

of tenderness –

of –




ha-ha-ha-ha-ha –


Who are you?  Where are you?


Who are you? 

What do you want?

“I have watched

you squat amongst the bones,

your eyes longing for the guilt

of the dead.

How many tombs, Hieronymus?

How many tears until your corpse

is dust? 

Did you think I’d hear you, Hieronymus?

            Did you think I’d

find your body in

the dust?”


Is that you?  I can’t see.  There’re

shadows in my eyes.  Patterns dance like

broken sunlight.  But the sun itself

has gone.

“Look at me.”

I can’t, Lord.

“Look at me.”


Marcus Tullius Cicero?  Here? 

Alive?  No.  No, you’re dead.  Dead these

four hundred years.  Murdered by

Marc Anthony.  What are you?

“What are you?”

I, I am a Christian.

“Liar.  Ciceronianus es,

non Christianus.”


“Yes.  You grovel in your cell, your

belly low

to the earth.

You pray upon your knees

and mortify

your flesh. 

But blood and filth

can’t wash you clean,


You reek of death.”

Get away from me.

“I know you, Hieronymus.”

I am a Christian.

“Pagan.  Idolater.

Nabēlâ’.  You lie to God,

don’t lie to me. 

I know you.  Each painful thought

buried in the sand.

Each sunburnt prayer

left unanswered.

We all want

to be loved, Hieronymus.

We all want to feel His love.

Sometimes it burns, Hieronymus.

Is love a sin?

Does it make of us

a wilderness?”

Leave me!

“The day she spoke to you the trees were in flower. 

I can feel her


 laughing off water.

The bitter reflection

 of petals

and hands.

 Can you feel it too,


Our words caressing

in the arbour’s shade,

tender like blossom –

an intimate twining

of petals

and hands?”


“She never

loved you,


Never reached

out to touch you.

She never loved you,


But she loves me.

What are you, Hieronymus?

Nothing.  A corpse burnt by the

madness of God.

But God doesn’t love you,


He doesn’t hear the

vomit of your heart.

No one loves you,


 No one but me.

Worship me, Hieronymus.

And I will

love you.”



Help me.

Lord…help me.




A breeze strokes

the sand,


and for a moment

it dances.


Who are you?


I know you.


And yet…




Yes, I’ll follow.


Your sunlight laughs

like water in my eyes.


And for a moment

I can see.



As Tom reads from