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)