Bitter Was the Night

This is the night when you wash each other’s feet. The night when you remember the Passover. The night when  you share the hasty meal before the  deliverance from God’s wrath. This is the night when God struck down the first born of all living things, human and other animal life. This is the night when God’s son prayed and wept in the garden. The night when the others slept instead of keeping vigil. This is the night of betrayal. This is the night of premonition  of horror.

So go to your beds to sleepy rest. But don’t dream. Don’t let your memories invade your unconsciousness. Turn off your minds to the call to stand vigil. I’ll join you. I’ll wait for the cock crow and wonder if, in my sleep, I’ve been guilty of three times of denial. I’ll wake certain that it happened. Somewhere, sometime, I know that I turned my back, didn’t listen to the plea, shrugged off the need. Tomorrow I’ll be there in the church, sorrowful for the death of my God. Repeating the prayers of lamentation and commiseration. An onlooker, not a true participant in  the passion. Not yet. Maybe next year.

Happy Easter!



And did you do anything

When you were crying out

Your injustices, your complaints

Against the occupying forces?


Wasn’t it all just an excuse

To pillage the villages,

To steal a few girls,

Pretending you were a freedom fighter?


Sure, the king turned a blind eye

To your shenanigans,

It suited him to let you

Annoy the foreigners, didn’t it?


When you were rampaging

Across the weary land,

There was another calling for change,

Did you never hear him?


While you were murdering and tearing,

Marauding through the hills,

He was healing and mending,

Did you not cross paths?


You and your ragamuffin band

Were little more than a nuisance,

You couldn’t think you mattered,

Or were you so deluded?


What did you think

When you were chosen by the mob,

That the governor had a good

Sense of your worthiness?


Not even a political prisoner,

You were just in the right place

At the right time,

Were you destined or merely lucky?


People are forever fickle,

They didn’t care a fig for you,

They just wanted the other one dead,

Was it possible you didn’t get that?


If you thought the crowds were cheering

Because you had been released,

You surely didn’t understand the situation

Or did it just not matter?


Like the governor washing his hands,

You wandered into the story,

He didn’t know what he was doing,

Did you have any better idea?


In the end, they say

That even the man’s god abandoned him,

Anyway that’s what I heard,

Was that really right?


In any case, how could you walk from prison,

Right past that innocent man

As if you had that right,

When you had no right?


Then they killed him, above a rubbish tip,

While you quickly got out of town,

While you got to live

What more did you do, did you?

 Ruari Jack Hughes



Another 500 Words

Have you ever thought about how fast you speak? Despite English being a fairly slowly spoken language (If you don’t think so, have a listen to someone speaking Spanish in a lively conversation), we, most of us, get through about two hundred words per minute on the average. Unless you’re a hermit or very anti-social, that means you chew up literally thousands upon thousands of words every day in ordinary conversation. 

Why is it then so hard for us writers to get a miserable 500 words on paper in a typical day sitting before the computer or scribbling on a pad?  I’ve just written slightly more than 100 words (up to here) for this posting in less than ten minutes (in between mouthfuls of a delicious terrine of chicken pate and pistachio paste washed down with a cappuccino). Yet earlier today it took me nearly three hours to produce a barely 500 word extension to a chapter in my novella.

At the beginning of the year I set myself a goal to complete (perhaps I should say extend) this work by approximately 13,000 words by the end of March. After a vigorous editing (and  unsentimental pruning), I found I would actually need another 16,000 words. Well, here I am, only a week short of my deadline and nowhere near completion.

Of course I can tick off a string of reasons/excuses/craven attempts at explanation —serious illness involving hospitalisation; unexpected and complicated matters in the daily business of surviving in the madhouse that is contemporary living; sheer procrastination which comes as second nature — but do any of these really point to the core of the problem?

From much that I’ve read in the peregrinations on their work by other poets, novelists, dramatists, as well as the discussions I’ve had with my own writerly associates, it’s clear this difficulty in getting words on paper is a common curse. My question persists. When we can blather on almost ad infinitum, if not ad nauseum, why is it so hard to scratch down a mere 500 of the little blighters on a page? I’m seventy percent of the way to 500 words in this posting and it’s been a doddle. But wait until tomorrow when I try to get another half ton loaded into the novella. It will seem like Sisyphus climbing up that everlasting hill. Two steps forward and roll back down the mount.

One hundred to go! Is this how we should write? Churning it out like some product on a conveyor belt? What happened to creativity? Spontaneity? Serendipity? Is Woody right, that it’s only 10% inspiration and the rest is perspiration? Where’s the Romance? What happened to the Muse who just alights on my shoulder with fully formed, matchless phrases and couplets only needing to be set down on the page, words which just flow from the mind, down the arm and through the fingers to repose in all their beauty and for all time’s ages in the little books which readers will always cherish? 

Oh, wotalotarot!                          Maybe this poem will suit you better?

My Word

Someday I will stop,

And the words will stop / still.

Only one word will be / still.

So many words I gather to me.

I am desperate / for words;

I go on / only by words.

The words, the words!

They gnaw at my body,

They tear at my reason.

They strip me / bare / me

Until only the core is left.

The word was spoken,

It only sounded like a beginning.

The one word of truth

Is the word of death.

In the basis of my being

Was my undoing, my end,

All settled / before it began.

Someday I will stop

And the words will stop / still.

The sentence will be finished.

                                                                                                            Ruari Jack Hughes

Parlez-vous Francais?

The Alliance Francais French Film Festival has arrived in Perth. I’ve decided to see a selection of the movies and began this afternoon with an adaptation of a Victor Hugo novel. The movie is L’homme qui rit or The Man Who Laughs. It’s set somewhere in time before the Revolution , even before the Enlightenment, and stars that ubiquitous French actor, Gerard Depardieu. The lesser known actors playing the roles of Gwynplaine  (the disfigured laughing man), and Dea, (the blind girl whom he rescues as a child),  beautifully embody the tragic lovers of the tale. The film alludes to the decadent society of pre-revolutionary France but could be set anywhere in any time. In a persistently understated manner it powerfully evokes the value of love as the thing which will ultimately carry the soul beyond whatever mortal torments may be experienced in life. Although the focus is on the impoverished of the country, represented in the strolling players and their audiences,  in the person of the Duchess, a self-described lost entity, we  see how love can also reach through to  allow at least pause for reflection, even in one so far gone.

The themes are as relevant today as they were in Victor Hugo’s time and also in the age before that in which he has set his story. At its end, Ursus (Depardieu’s character) who has told us he’s never cried for anything, despite the appalling conditions experienced by his peers all around him, stands silently weeping as he witnesses the death of Dea. Gwynplaine  soon follows her. Ursus weeps for the loss of innocence. But his tears are also for joy in recognising that love will finally triumph.

It’s a beautiful film. I strongly recommend it.

The other story which brought tears to my own eyes during the last few days is a true one (and all the worse for being so). In the Maldives a fifteen year old girl (about Dea’s age) has been brutalised by her father and other males in her family almost all her life. Constantly raped and abused, when her situation became public knowledge she was immediately condemned for acts of fornication and condemned to receive 100 lashes to be administered before all in her community. This is a situation of almost inconceivable obscenity and yet is entirely in conformity with the country’s laws. Organisations including Amnesty and Avaaz are marshalling the outrage of all sensible people in a program to produce millions of signatures in petition to the Maldivean government to repeal this sentence and the law which allowed it. I pray they will be successful.

The bestiality of one section of society in its acts against another section is as present in our contemporary world as it was in Victor Hugo’s and, to the shame of humankind, has ever been since the beginning of history.

I went to see a film for entertainment. And I was entertained because of the beauty of the story. But the horror lying beyond the entertainment makes me also cry silent tears.


If we haul on the rope, will it be enough to bring the sun above the horizon,

Will this be a day to die and rise, a day when love will be abroad.

Ruari Jack Hughes



I’m sure you’ve had those days. The ones when you plan what you’re going to do with the next 24 hours and then the whole lot goes to crap in one easy move. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes I just can’t get myself into gear; sometimes I have so many things on my ‘to do’ list that I get overwhelmed and can’t see where to start first.

But sometimes, quite a lot in fact, it’s other people who muck it up. Sometimes that’s a nice thing (like a friend phoning or calling in); sometimes it’s just plain bloodyminded. Business people trying to flog you something you don’t want are just a nuisance — time-wasting but soon dismissed.  Worse are those whose  incompetence requires you going over matters already supposedly complete but you have to spell it out all over again in words of one syllable. Even more worser is when they still can’t comprehend what they should be doing in return for the typically serious amounts of money they are charging to do it.

Why is it, I wonder, that sometimes we can see things so stunningly obvious yet to others they are apparently more opaque than stygian darkness? This morning it was a financial company unable to see that a new contract to extend a situation in operation for the past five years — and in which there will be no change in the next five years — should be able to be maintained as status quo.

And while I was grumpily reflecting on this piece of nonsense which had occupied an hour on the phone, I checked on one of the news-feeds on my computer and read a number of postings related to the imminent withdrawal of armed forces from Afghanistan. Now, with the wonderful advantage of 20/20 hindsight vision, all the pundits are pointing out the utter senseless waste of more than ten years warfare in that sad country and the most likely outcome being an immediate descent into tribal violence and destabilisation as soon as the withdrawal of the USA, Australia and all the other gung-ho military adventurers is complete.

Sometimes your own problems become rather insignificant when you lift your eyes and re-focus on the broader scenario.

Here’s a couplet which may be worth pondering.

The biding is done, there will be satisfaction for the longing;

The night comes down, and the sun ascends in the dawning.

Ruari Jack Hughes