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Derelict Church

by Francis Webb

When earth and flint rear themselves into certain shapes
There is prayer from the fiery centre of the earth:
That grey dancer the belfry vaulting as the Host,
Arches as mouths importunate.
Dun smoking flames come leisurely home to roost,
The lost mind slews to an enigmatic path
Joining hands again, the errant spirit leaps
Into fire of joy at this grimy Fishergate.

Over the river's dank effluvia
Hang like launches the oozing sunsets, palls
Of light close dully. Enter the crippled church
To pray with a near-pride:
Cases are piled in the transept and the porch
Yet peace loiters here as not in cathedrals
While with advertisement and trivia
Man is beseiging Heaven for his trade.

The Cross slopes down to jackboot and grimy truck;
Bones of the dead are indifferent to our debris
Grating above them; the devouring sin and pain
Still come to burial;
The immemorial Shape is persistent as rain.
Ghosts of bells chatter as from the sea
Out of memory slides home this gaping wreck
Still seaworthy, hallowed and functional.

(By kind permission of Claudia Snell)

Norfolk Poems




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