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I sit with people a while, sometimes in prison

Thursday, 19 January 2023  | Jesse Mawson


I sit with people a while, sometimes in prison

On Plastic opal chairs

Bibles in boxes, and too many damn copies of ‘The Masterpiece’ in Spanish

As these bounded books linger, longing to leave

He enters through this passage

and sits with me a while

offering my greetings

and a handshake so human

it’s as if it’s enough

I peer into his eyes

let him not just slip by

look beneath the mask

listen for the true reply

hear my voice within

and where his begins


No oracles, only observations

questing with open ended questions

I’m in no rush, or at least I try to be

tender and gentle, slow, and sturdy

We talk of peace in the chapel

Lightning light pervading this place

Birdsong above

‘the hustle’ below

We talk of spiritual sufferings

And human hopes

He grieves an aunt

The third death this March

I pray for his family and fears

His anxieties and existential tears

I pray for peace in this prison

And Courage in his cell


And when, finally, I am alone

I pray for myself

To hear that voice

Harking back home

taste and treasure

The grass and greenery

The stillness in the sea

The warmth in this wreck

And when the pain and problems

Suffering and sewage

Reaps wells

I remember the ‘goldenmouths’

Kingdom house:

‘Hell took a body, and discovered God,

It took earth, and encountered Heaven.’

And I remember that it is in this valley

the unveiling is to be done.


Jesse Mawson is a prison chaplain at MRRC, Silverwater. I am currently studying a Masters of Spiritual Direction and in my pastoral practice have been most deeply formed by poets, contemplative spiritualities and biographical approaches to theology.


Image credits

Silhouette of person near window by Devon Wilson on Unsplash.

Black metal frame in grayscale by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash.

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