Underneath

 
 
 
 Who knows where who is buried?
 What names should have their stones turned
 To lean against the wind,
 Their chiselled marks preserved?
 ‘Underneath these penitent slabs
 Lies the mortal remains of a Parish?’ 

 Who now could ever tell,
 When policies and budgets conspire
 To rip such documents 
 From their libraries of ground? 

 And those still firm, at attention,
 Despite upheavals of sycamore – 
 That Faustian weed of a tree,
 Fostered upon silent hearts,
  
 Thrusting through teeth and sockets,
 Across the jet-scribed skies,
 Airless in their callous erasures
 Of cloud and lark, of thrush – 
  
 Sweet songful sermons delivered
 Over the edge of hawthorn pulpits
 Into revival eyes
 And peregrine’s hermit cries – 
  
 Those upright stones 
 Defend themselves from bindweed
 And nettle, and deter
 The notebooks and Rubbers’ fettle,
  
 Ancestral jigsaws, pencilled trees,
 Scrolls and inventories
 Of lists and dates and branches – 
 O! Searchers after exiled foundation – 
  
  
 The grass is three feet high!
 Families look over the walls;
 Occasional widows come and go
 With wildflowers under their shawls –  
 
 Theirs a battle against forces; 
 No house-room for disorder
 Or reckless words – 
 Domains ruled by their eye – 
  
 From Tuesday step to Friday’s
 Blacking range, stewing windfalls, 
 Dark shelves of soft potato roots
 Optimistic for yield in stagnant air
  
 And reaching towards the light – 
 O guardian holes in pantry door – 
 With all the tendril wandering
 Of ghosts upon a terraced stair – 
  
 Ah! Such a case, up and down,
 Creaking in lieu of dawn, heavy-
 Hearted in dusk’s embrace, 
 And sitting up through rasping nights,
  
 Confinements and expirations
 To grasp a hand from the waiting chair – 
 The gossip on swollen knees,
 With jam-jar carnations and vases
  
 Of wild rose and celandine,
 All letters polished and tidied leaves
 And news to whisper to fill the time;
 Such comforts bely the bustle
  
 Of villages driven by season,
 And their hymns, their hands of whist,
 Their dances and harvest braids,
 And atop the hills of crowded towns
  
 In consecrated burial grounds,
 The dead lie waiting, and young trees,
 Ignored in their rebellion
 By men from ministries and mowing crews

 Issue in clench-fisted salute
 Of air and light through mouths 
 Whose quiet mission once was
 To not answer back and be always, 

  
 Despite provocation, polite – 
 And brambles scratch the plasma
 Of pale cloaks on midnight-frolics
 Of mischievous sprite, and vixen,
  
 Brazen in her commuting,
 Scuffling the edge of plots,
 And snuffling the garlic tang
 Of warded-off ghosts, of a night
  
 In the business of fox – 
 And the long bell rouses itself
 To carry a daughter to rest – 
 Dutiful sons bring a private breast
  
 To spell its name on silvered slate,
 To endure eternity’s cruel jest, 
 And she lies amongst old Mayors
 And self-made magistrates immersed
  
 In wiles and disciplines of commerce – 
 A sparrow occupies its ivy tower
 And poetry lingers to claim its hour
 And fall in failed rhyme
  
 Before the tread of time,
 To fade in a waterless jar
 In the heart of a grey carnation,
 Brittle and awaiting
  
 A widow’s admonition, 
 And a rose, a red rose,
 To spell a week, a lifetime,
 Of unrequited passion. 

Written following a visit to St. Mary’s churchyard (see here)