The Nave – The Bell Tower

Spreading out, a dozen here a dozen there,
The land bestowed her favours on them
For they were ardent
In their husband-ship of these
Valleys and the hills,
Exciting the meadows and
The rich rising ground
Into such fecundity
As this land has not yet
Known; seducing cold rivers
Into mill races, easing back
The forests, securing
The range and extent of all influence.

MAN:
Stepping up that aisle took all day, or so it seemed:
The roof hemmed me in, and I feared for my head bumping the rafters.

WOMAN:
I was the sheltered one,
Surrounded by scores of sour-faced old bitches
And the man up there on the pulpit, thumping
On about the sins of the flesh while their lemon-skinned thin faces narrowed
As if spite was sucking the very life out of them.

MAN:
I well remember, I kept my eyes lowered;
I counted the square tiles
All the way from the door to the altar.

WOMAN:
Good God! I believed the very roses on my cheeks
Would carry me to hell!
They made me feel bad.
They painted the world as black as tar.

MAN:
I had a dream in the night
Of a golden girl who danced before me,
So lightly,
Leading me on
Showing me the way
To wants and desires I would not, even now, put words to.

WOMAN:
They discovered the Devil behind every pleasure I could ever conceive of.
Hard backed books on Sundays. Walk, never run.

She watches him,
His lovely arms bared
Peeling away the birth coat,
Stripping
The foal of tight, wet membrane,
His lean finger puncturing;
She bends with him, blowing life into the mouths
Of newborn lambs and calves.
Groping again and again for the life start.
She senses his lips wooing the foal to its feet.
He turns from the bleak field,
The scythe, the plough, the spade
He sets aside.
He looks upon her face; his heart,
His hand, they are moved
Time stops; he weakens;
His heart’s blood courses.
She retreats slowly into…
Into her inner softness, into her own darkness,
Into the privacy of her own mystery:
She who
Allowed him, of all others, to escort her on Sundays,
To squire her, of all others, in capped procession
In through the towering nave,
Passing, in concert with their brethren,
Under the marbled monuments and on,
On, on under the draping, un-kissed flags;
At all times,
Her eyes shy
Of the falling white light.

THE BELL TOWER
In the tower the
Oldest bells in
Ireland by convention
Called the curfew twice daily,
At nine and at nine.

Away down the road in Clougher Valley
Carlton’s teeming swarms laughed and danced and sang,
With not an arse in their trousers;
They drained life-blood from cows, puncturing veins
With sharp-edged flint, fought, lied and loved
In life, in death,
Their bellies thin, their hearts
Warm. Manifold and motley.
Poem – Sam Burnside