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



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


Ain’t Love Grand?!

She’s back! After three days of stooging around on my own, my lady is home. She’s been away at a conference about stuff on which she is some sort of wizard and about which I couldn’t even begin to comment. Computer stuff — something I’ve decided you either have in your blood or you don’t. I most definitely don’t.

It’s interesting how you get involved with another person and you know it’s right. There’s something which connects you and you can’t really define it or put any explanation to why this one rather than the million or more others out there who are reasonably available no matter what age you are, what you look like or any other criterion which you may think matters. We all call it love largely for want of more imagination since the word is so hopelessly debased in current usage. Still, it’s a word that’s been around a long time and I reckon it does fairly well to get the idea across about how there is this someone in your life that you can’t imagine not being there and you still surviving. Well, not for too long anyway.

But while all that’s said, there’s still this strange business that we never fully know the other one. No matter how long you’ve been together (in our case it’s a very long time), how many places you’ve been to, how many things you’ve done, how many arguments you’ve had, how many times you’ve forgotten why you even had the argument, how many times you’ve slept together (and how many of those times were after you had sex), there is still a mystery. Maybe that’s what keeps you together. That ultimate unknowability of the other. The fascination of someone who isn’t you, has a separate being and personality, a unique take on the world.

For very many years I have known that every day brings forth something new. Almost never do I pull the sheets up and nod off to dreamland without recognising that today I had a new experience unlike any before. Or I learnt a new fact. Or the one I love revealed yet another facet of herself that I hadn’t seen previously. It’s quite wonderful and apparently it’s an endless possibility. So I’m very glad she’s back.

Here’s a poem to finish, and since it’s about love, it had to be a sonnet, Right?

Can it be Different Now?

Know that you were loved
In the break of day
When sunlight had moved
The shadows from where you lay
And as the night fell
Scattering stars in its wake
Like the casting of a spell
Love was there for you to take.

Can it be different now?
Only the years have passed by
Day and night are the same
Can anything here disallow
The moon to rise or the sun to lie
Or love to echo the sound of your name?

Ruari Jack Hughes