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Narborough Church

by John Press

I stroll across the railway bridge,
Past cottages with pink-wash walls;
My sentimental pilgrimage
Deposits me inside the church
As the chill autumn evening falls.

A seventeenth-century gentleman
Leans nonchalantly on his side;
His cold stone eyes appear to scan
The casual visitor who admires
The face that art has petrified.

A snapshot of the football team
Of nineteen-ten slants on a nail.
Some of these gawky youths who seem
Fit only for a rustic farce
Found graver parts at Passchendale.

This yellowing print, that crumbling stone,
Commemorating buried lives,
Might tell a saint that love alone,
When pride of art and body's strength
Grow dull and pitiable, survives.

But, standing here, I find it hard
To bandy such a word about.
Whatever flames grows cold and charred,
All self-consuming passion dies
And time stamps the last embers out.

My parents, married in this place,
I, baptized in this angel font,
Have left here not a single trace -
My father dead, my mother old
And I a mourning revenant.

The rags of flesh, the splintered bone,
Put off their lustre in the shade
Sooner than print or chiselled stone,
Though in the end time mars the bust
And the weak tints of sepia fade.

I walk in darkness to my car,
And drive along the narrow lane
That scores the landscape like a scar
To where my oblivious children lie
Cocooned by sleep from wind and rain.

Norfolk Poems




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