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Homage To Larkin

Rather the thought of high windows, stained glass.

Beyond all this the wish to atone.

There is an air of great holiness
(which falls like an enormous yes)
And of great gladness also..

I step inside, leaving the door half-shut.
The church: our proper habits clearly shown:
The little missal books for next week's mass.
A sprawl of flowers freshly cut.
Up on the altar polished brass.
A tense, unignorable Presence.
I kneel with skilful reverence,

Move forward, run my palm along a pew.
From where I stand the roof looks brand new.
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I do.
Mounting the lectern the priest pronounces
A few well chosen verses
(a draught escaping as the door swings closed)
I reflect the place worth stopping for.

Often end up much like this, do you?
I always end up at a complete loss
Wondering at the beauty, wondering too
When Catholic churches are in use
(In the monstrance below the reredos
There is the centre of the cosmos!)
How does one avoid such a place?

Dubious women will come
when their children are touched by a particular problem.
Maybe a cancer? Or some
Walking like dead ones?
Religion will always go on.
For what remains when belief has gone?
What buttresses the sky? And why?
It's shape recognisable each week!

A purpose less obscure then. I wonder if you
Will seek this place for what it is in reality?
I'm one of the crew that know what rood-lofts are
(A rood-loft has Christ, Mary and Saint John)
Where do these innate assumptions come from?
All here to confess something has gone wrong?
Are we representatives of the laity?

See through that incense-smoke (a ghostly silt)
What soon shall be held up with equity
That special shell
One of the churches accoutred riches
(the monstrance is pinnacled and edged with gilt)
The Blessed Trinity and thoughts of these
It pleases me to kneel in silence here.

A serious house on serious earth was his-
'in whose blent air all our compulsions meet'
Recognised, but robed in Identities.
And that much never can be obsolete
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in myself now to complete.

Would you gravitate to this ground?
(Above the church moving at Summers' pace
One bleached from lying in a sunny place!)
If only that so many clouds lie round.

Or

This was a proper place to grow wise in
(I sit on a headstone like the sage)
Now only an attitude surviving
the page, and then the only end of the page.


by James Morris
Barnsley, England


This poem is Copyright 2001 by James Morris


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