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From Vol 65/2
At the Pitcher and Piano, Nottingham
‘… wondering too
when churches fall completely out of use
what we shall turn them into …’
(Philip Larkin, ‘Church Going’)
Pink, green diamonds of light
stain the soft crowns of bent heads
deep in the language of truth
and faces shine in the light of candles
on pumps, bottles, glass,
as we queue along the aisle
take, eat in the nave at loaded tables
bring to our eager lips
the comfort of cappuccino, wine,
or in the booked side chapel
offer our praise, responses,
our gifts, under lit stars
or set out to find the pulpit
of winding stairs, ascend
to the confessionals of washrooms
later, with the unintelligible music of joy
knowing the oak doors will too soon
echo shut on the dark and the dead
embrace pillars of stone, or stagger
into waiting arms, save the few
who move beyond that rail
into soaring magnificnet light,
to join the private party,
raising their glasses and becoming holy.
The Green Chapel
Lud’s Church, near Gradbach, the Roaches
It’s tricky to find: first the lanes escaping
from the highway, then the net of tracks and trails,
turning and turning in the deep green wood.
I missed him, the Green Knight, perhaps by minutes,
perhaps a few centuries. No matter.
You sense he’s still around, silence ringing
after his presence in this hidden place.
You need to be alone, or the bone chill
will be labelled: the time of year, cold rocks.
And the green-tinged light might be analysed
as it trickles dreamlike through the broad-leaved trees
arching across the chasm spreading a vaulted roof.
Best to stand still, a solitary creature,
washed by the green rays, shocked by that silence.
The ages reflect in the rough stone floor,
vandalised by subsidence, tilting slabs
like neglected gravestones, while the gritstone walls
are living tapestries of fern and moss.
The guidebook, pompous with heritage, pumps on:
the Lollards, persecution, their leader,
de Lud-Auk, meeting, trapped and captured here.
The book lacks their plain-speaking appeal
and I snap the dry pages shut, afraid
the Green Knight will shrink into black and white.
Now I remain, one person in the world,
wanting to hear rich voice, echoing,
I shall shiver and wait, the quest complete.
For so many years they’ve been practising old age.
A preoccupation with coats and the suitability of carrier bags.
She seems to have lost the knack
of inhabiting that small space between future and past.
She knows she’s become morbid, continually
searching for him, watching him
in every room. He’s such a quiet man,
unlike that loud father silenced at last. The dead
know nothing or everything, mute
on the subject of where years go and why.