17. Quintet of Quips and Quibbles

by Graham Kings

Date added: 06/02/2024

I wrote these five poems  — four quips and one quibble  — during an eight-day silent retreat at the Jesuit Centre, St Beuno’s, North Wales in August 2023.

Christ the Oboe” developed out of the last paragraph of my sermon “Nourishing Unity” at Selwyn College Chapel, January 22, 2023, which was part of the broadcast of Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4. 

Christ the Oboe

For an orchestra tuning up,
The oboe plays the note of A.
Instruments, in their variegation,
Tune themselves to Alpha.

In tune with each other,
They are ready and waiting,
Attentive, well-tempered,
A consort for concert.


Prayer Book of Christ” emerged from silent meditation on the significance of my ultimate location, “in Christ,” and on Jesus of Nazareth being a Palestinian Jew, who would have recited the Hebrew Psalter from an early age.

Prayer Book of Christ

Sited in you,
Excited by you,
I recite your Psalms,
To gain, again, my sight.


Herbert’s Hilary” emanated from noticing the confluence between the reticence portrayed in George Herbert’s poem “Love (III),” which begins, “Love bade me welcome,” and the subtle gift of Hilary — a friend of mine for 40 years — of drawing people out. It is published with her permission.

Herbert’s Hilary

In her psychotherapy, I imagine,
Hilary performs the role
She typically plays at parties.

“Quick-ey’d Love,”
Noticing the unnoticed,
Gently welcoming,
Releases the reticent.

Loved by Love, she loves.


Consecration” surfaced from a line in George Herbert’s, Church Music,” and is located in three places: in an Oxford bookshop; in Westminster Abbey; and in my episcopal ring. I was consecrated bishop in the Church of God, on June 24, 2009.


In Blackwell’s, on the Broad,
Between appointment and announcement,
Contemplating coping as a bishop,
I laugh out loud,
Disturbing book-browsers.
In Herbert’s, “Church Music,”
I read the enigmatic plea:
“God help poore kings.”

In Westminster Abbey,
Inundated by the Spirit,
Hilaritas mingles with gravitas.
Laying on of hands,
Anointing with oil,
Giving of the Bible
And a ring, engraved:
“God help poore Kings.”


Concealed in a Comma” is a quibble I picked with the theologians of Nicaea, who produced the Nicene Creed in 325. Next year will be the 1,700th anniversary of the Creed.

Concealed in a Comma

Where does the common-or-garden comma
Guard the life of Christ?

In the Nicene Creed,
Between “and was made man”
And “was crucified for us.”

Three-quarters of the Gospels
Hidden in a comma.

The grounded life of the Controversialist,
Three centuries later,
Was not dissected, divided, and debated
As much as his eternal life as God,
His conception by the Virgin,
And his bodily resurrection.

Our life is hid with Christ in God:
His life  — concealed in a comma.

Preaching “Kingdom is now,”
Healing sick with power,
Teaching crowds with parables,
Walking hills and valleys,
Contradicting sneers of scribes,
Abiding with sidelined:
Diminishing the lofty, raising the lowly.

Come on, theologians of Nicaea,
Seventeen hundred years ago,
Expand your comma.

Have a heart and harken.
Give space to the life on earth
Of the Life of the Universe:
Intermediate time of Intermediary,
Between eternity and eternity,
Son of Man contracted to a span.

Express the compressed:
Point to the tale of the point with a tail.

Graham Kings

Graham Kings


Wood panel

A bronze

Wood panel