England-based writer and poet Ann Jean Blyth Phillips (pictured on the right) recently visited the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, accompanying a friend who was conducting research. Phillips is no stranger to the Holy Land. She took a pilgrimage several years ago, but also has a more personal connection. She is the great granddaughter of Bishop Blyth, who served as the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem from 1887 to 1914. Phillips is currently writing a memoir about his life and his time in the Middle East. She also wrote a series of poems while staying at Tantur. She is sharing her latest poem titled, “A Shiver in the Air.”
A Shiver in the Air
A slight chorus of bird song
an intermission, an intermezzo.
Beyond stone walls, pomelo trees’
dusty leaves and heavy fruit
provide a perch. The day springs awake
in an immersion of light.
A sibilant sound, like
a sigh in the tops of tall trees
as gentle breezes from far hills
send shivers through the air.
Fluting notes tremble in
the fall of fountains splashing
into blue depths of tiled pools.
I am seated in lush gardens
surrounded by stone walls and bare ground,
where olive trees stand gravely sentinel
over acres of given land,
their bruised branches being lately beaten,
submissive now offer
ripe fruit to the stone press.
Here, in this sanctuary set next
to the Hebron road,
not far from Jerusalem
or Bethlehem, two places beloved
by three faiths, I sit and reflect.
The bare soil echoes the sadness of my heart
as I recall the divisions, conflicts
which afflict this land.
No in-between times here,
the night falls swift and heavy
while bones weary from sun’s heat
creak to rest at last.