A Lepers Squint

Our pew is set for untouchables
We watch through a hewn leper squint
That tunnelled sightline was gouged
by your dust-bitten youth and old men

to ensure that we filthy sufferers
are kept out of your hallowed house
of slung beams – of struck stones –
of holy words – we cannot speak out

My prayers rip up before they finish
I dribble red spit from my curled lip
I implore for my ill disfigurement
to plague your stonemason’s next kiss

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

Above Glynde Reach

I picked a bent path of grass treads
between time’s tipped-hat stones
in St. Andrew’s – Beddingham’s
dry-high whispering graveyard

It hasn’t absorbed any rising tidal
surge or sudden winter wash – of
God’s clearing-out-no-chance-flood
since He-knows-when-of-last

Once vagrants were listed here
in this river-fashioned parish
in a sub-Lewes rolled distance –
68 villains, 6 bordars and 5 slaves

Now Major and Mrs. lie thigh-to-thigh
in parallel places under that shadow
of repurposed stone and fixings –
another bypass and road of sorts

as cars hurtle at a throw’s distance
taking travelling parishioners
beyond unmarked boundaries
without a detour to see bowed stones


A Thankless Task

Here fifty-six lichen-dipped
granite bodies sunbathe –
some lean – some almost swoon
in April’s upset of unexpected weather

Here clippings
and rolled stripes of grass
mark long-sunk slopes
under headstones

A cartographer
had taken up mowing
and looked back
upon his day’s work

as a map folded open –
to be figured out
For him
that thought was wasted

There are no travellers here –
all trips are done
Quarter bells
serve no purpose

except to drown out
tinkling-bloody-wind-chimes
and
always ignored car alarms –

no one moves far
from these landmarks –
we are all within earshot
of cuttings of blades and spades

between those engravings
dead endings expose our half-thoughts
about stuff like
Crematorium or lawn cemetery?

Smoke Over Paris

Their Lady of Paris burnt
in one online afternoon
Her re-imagined spire
tipped to robes of smoke

like a bloodied lance
in surrender – once more –
to politics and holy battles
in a kindless fog of war

Her heated metals ran
as dark beaded sweats
from her swealing heights
to leave cooled scabs

of Saint Thomas – and others –
spattered across worn stones
under her collapsed transept
Those slabs will be saved

with high relics – rescued
from clouds above la quatrième
No puzzle of scattered ashes –
France has her couronne d’épines

A Pathogen at Work

This year’s olive crop
is failing across Apulia
as older-than-Christ
groves are uprooted

to break the spread
of the end of the world
for sun-dried farmers
who bear the dark look

of bereaved parents
at their child’s funeral –
as their questions to God
are waved away at mass –

Their pontiff no longer visits
because Rome is burning
with rumours of disease
promulgated by priests


Shrove Tuesday

Shriven into a repentant’s place –
readied for a cross of palm ash –
a marking – tomorrow – of believers –
Yesterday was our early Mardi Gras
of confessions – But we do not follow
those fading rules of others’ liturgies –
We cannot name their Shriving Bell
as they stick it loudly to parishioners –
I was last in a church in Birmingham –
under glass and impressive masonry –
but did I not see the work of God –
Now on this half-holiday we will feast
without you here to guide turned heat –
to sear fat and remnants of shopping –
We have given up everything
to a non-date far beyond Lent’s tests


 

The Ascension – St.Martin in the Bull Ring

Before that art-by-light –
a conceit of Burne-Jones
which is framed within lead –

before the builders’ thrums
from the other side of
that tall story of saints –

commissioned under strict
instruction that it should
bear no oxen –

it was possible to feel
the touch of his brushwork –
of his mixing of skin colours

to be lent them by dipped winter
backlight – as it was designed –
to feel dried paint on my face –

those pigments rear-projected
into a warm kiss of soft gobos –
then my own-ish ascension

into an understanding of being –
under that church’s vaulted height –
My creed warmed – half-confirmed

within that minute of grace –
of time’s fusion of experience
and of being there


 

And Disorderly

He visits lost priests
to mumble-in-vain
for what?
His loose-lip prayers weave
over tremble-woven fingers –

This is the church –
this is the steeple –
look inside
and see the people –

God’s gatekeepers
cannot force the bolts –
not slammed
gavel-struck ones –
so he carries his sentence

out in public spaces
as drunken stumbles –
Ready the stocks
they mutter to others –
He is a convict clapped

in cold iron hobbles –
Of his own bad choices
manacles left visible
to every untrained eye –
they see another barfly


 

A Bull Ring Recital

Into God’s house below the Bull Ring –
it offers automatic doors
which open to a wild piano recital

before empty pews – set C of E stiff –
aligned and tuned to religious creaks –
here only stained sunlight warms

as fat chattering volunteers spit
in tongues – the pianist is subsumed
by her memory-art of ivories and wires

as half a dozen souls – hard seated –
do not dare shift lest it upsets
her selfless performance
which – when ends – is not applauded


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The Lungs of God

I stand under this vault
of our common church –
off-centre on this sea-girt isle

Our stone tradition of roofing
is more to do with fools’ fires
than Heaven’s weight

Here the light is insipid –
no tang of incense
only the blue miasma
off flume emissions

My legs tire – but find no pew –
no tuffet to take me
to the path’s cathartic
kneel-down call