Into Candles and Soap

Inhale those odours within
la Ville Lumi̬re Рof corpse wax

found among her exhumed
Draw on le cimetière des Innocents

An old miasma off rotting flesh
lingers in time’s stillness

above French Empires of Death
atop her levelling grounds

Citizens sought
salubrious solutions

as well as judicial balance
by opening wide old books

by breaking cracking spines
glued by their learned dead writers

Thinkers took routes dug through
others – now equal – as bones

Inert citizens will never stop
troubling the living of Paris

On Church Street

Shortly after closing time
outside my unknown church –
feeling a stone’s frore
off dead men and women
upright as chiselled recalls

and staring – all – in disbelief
at that zealous parish priest
who dolls up as a spectre
A welcome departure
from his-biking leathers?

Do you fancy a whole Sunday
of such wanton dressing-up?
But – note – none of that
purely Anglicised-God-stuff
No vertical iron pressings
No M&S slacks in ageing beige

I am not of that creamy dotage
marked heaven-ready
My dark walk is guided on
by each clack-clack-clack
of my tapped black stick –
no more standing as a stone
Satan will catch me
if I stay too long

The Corpse Gate

I called it a tithe gate
but it is a lychgate
I confused it with barns –
my first mistake –

Here are the lost bones
of dead English words –
and here a brutal joinery
hewn by blunt saws –

Here the just-deceased
were propped overnight –
Here guarded ‘gainst theft
by snatchers on the sly –

Laid still – after carriage
on the rough corpse road –
under this shelter
for one night’s repose –

Wood knots – whales watching –
here the whorled grain –
This was not God’s work –
but of man’s own domain