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

No Rest

Do not tarry for too many minutes
below Chanctonbury’s decimated
circle of silvered-skin beech trees
They were planted without regard
for any long-term fixing agreement
set fast to grow by a man’s measures
of water on their fragile root balls
There on disturbed nights
that dark copse is circled
by foul-mouthed flying guides
Above you in the weighted boughs
are stirrings of banshees and phantoms
as you tremble under battery lanterns
Too many whitened deep roots
screw through long-buried
druid bones and other scatterings
of now-forgotten Roman emperors
The trees endlessly finger through soils
disturbing turned souls with their tubers
once lost and unequal in life and death
but finding a rare settling of parity
under levels of pressed Sussex chalk
and now haunting your visit

Ghost Holes

This bar’s serving hatch is always left agape –
tonight I see it is a varnished picture frame
holding unfair perspectives of the pirouettes
of the not-Degas barmaids in uniform black

In this pub’s cellar are floating phantasma –
I am often told – here under my pint-fixed feet –
below the boards – Orbital corner-of-the-eye
lights are known to cross the cold stones

They are – the old boys also claim –
fixed by the presence of the town’s tunnels –
those mislaid smugglers’ rat runs now
bricked up within the dead-end arches

Other spectres are regulars in the saloon –
they bother the rushed staff and punters
from their precarious stools – a feat in old age –
added up they would predate electricity –

and then they shuffle off – with chains of change –
shifting between the bogs and their tall thrones –
always back on their seat to summon spirits –
from the optics – but not with their pensions