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Ordinary Christians, extraordinary times

The Story of the Straw

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God ordains wisdom and strength
Psalms 8:2

I raised a healthy glass to toast my child.
“Here’s to you,” I said. “Please not to bite the end.
Draw the drink into your mouth; copy your friend,”
I leant back satisfied. Later findings drove me wild.
It seems that straws were, initially, made of the worst
toxic plastics such as polystyrene (type six)
which poisoned the spittle of kids without anyone aware.
Thank God such plastics proved too brittle;

now kids suck more clean through type five polypropylene
but this recyclable, durable, flexible straw
has the Achilles heel of being so very light and thin
it cheats the filter screen of the best recycling machine.
Hordes of straws come to be strewn by diverse means
in gigantic ocean gyres, confounding the mouths
of innocent sharks and seals and rainbow fish.
Drawn into pancreatic tissue (exocrine and endocrine)

straws become spears, stab outwards from insides.
Hollow folk gather in resonant sheds
to stuff the world with molecule chains, entangled
beyond belief, baffling to nature’s keenest claws.
The Lord Jesus Christ – our holy interface
with Father God – suffers for our pitiful mistakes
upon a plastic cross, proffered lemonade
by straw men, brandishing a phoney drinking aid.

We sample truths and wonders through a tube
happy to be at one remove, never cottoning on
to the observer’s curse, i.e. that this small glass
connects us only with itself, a dead sea
so very distant from The Jordan. If we lift our eyes
from the meniscus that rings us, limits us,
we’ll witness the agony we cause; we’ll turn again,
be born again, learn to swallow the real world.

Philip Burton

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