My days ahead aren’t numbered
Just because of death;
My years are not for hymn boards,
The pages are not set;
My time is unencumbered,
I’ve lives to live ahead.
Clawing presumptive ends,
I’ve closed the dismal thread;
I threw away the herring bones,
I locked the empty chest.
I’ll join a flock and learn to fly,
If flight brings me to rest.
Our bond was forged between two places;
The sky-found fables, familiar faces,
And back in our city the seasoned disgraces.
I envied your consort on the heath,
His stubble sharp as lamprey’s teeth,
He made a garter and a wreath
And toured the church where he would kneel
Before love’s faulted spinning wheel
Which trades between what’s right and real.
As younger lovers we shared seven rings,
Your leaf’s butter-wrapping annulled nettle stings,
We tamed the marshes and the lings.
You poured your songs into wandering missels,
You gave me a crown of Tyrian thistles
And peace within my Roman epistles.
But in the river there’s catfish and perch,
The river that throttles the crumbling church,
Where Love Lies Bleeding, under a birch.
A priestly patrician without congregation
Surveyed vacant pews from a pulpit,
The last of the lay-folk had faded away,
No longer a nation of pilgrims.
He advertised Matins where nobody read,
He preferred Vulgate Latin to English.
Legionella was rife in the presbytery,
The votive was all but extinguished.
He blew away dust from a hymnal,
The hymn-board held still 3-1-2;
An offertory plate with a mildew fate,
Jerusalem was not rebuilt.
Ivy is choking the chancel,
The first diocese twelve numbered.
There was a day when prayers ended at Karnak,
An unoccupied altar’s in slumber.
Quotidianly the Church of Failure I entered,
It’s perched on the edge of the Perilous Cliffs;
Overlooking a township where sailors self-centred
Have painted Saint Elmo on leprous skiffs.
The lych-gate’s with knotweed succumbed,
The last wedding here only led to divorce;
The yew-trees colluded and suddenly plummed,
Incited cattle to trample, remorseless and coarse.
Saint Saviour’s statue outside the narthex
Lost both His hands in the penultimate storm;
The gargoyles with moss and lichen are blessed,
The Roaring Forties with tempests transform
The lands where narwhal skeletons rest;
A place of reflection and calm contemplation
With sea-kelp and crab claws dressed,
The trammelling corpses upbraiding salvation;
The empresses here are other crustaceans,
A giant squid’s eyes guard the vestibule;
Defrocking is also laicization,
The vicar defrocked to a village near Goole.
The organist abetting has been suspended,
We sing our cantatas in a capella ways;
The pipes and the pedals we had recently mended
An absconding convict stole, while in prayer we praised.
Some congregational hearts are not really in it,
They thought a Vesper a vehicle needing repair;
They thought that Lauds was the home of cricket;
Sabbas the Sanctified looks on in despair.
Quotidianly a coffin tips over the edge,
Parishioners strive to catch caskets with nets;
Coastal erosion reached bramble and sedge;
That view had survived a thousand regrets.
Those who tampered with truth eat their desserts;
We go home, watch executions from London to Delhi.
We petition each day to make matters worse,
But prayers are not heard from within a whale’s belly.