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10. Featuring: Ursula Hurley

+ Greg Buddery +  Noel Sloboda + Karl Gielinck + Khalid Khan + Paul Tanner +         David McLean + Sam Smith + D. Garcia-Wahl + Christopher Barnes + Emily           Wright +  Nell Grey + Lynn Strongin

Cathedral notes

 

I

 

So I get on the train

Bleecker drugstore dragonflies in my hair

pot pourri passion on my cheeks

heart glowing on my sleeve

(Your cardigan, moth-holed, and $125 limited

edition Levis).

 

Can’t account for this

gnawing dread, insidious

fear of failing. I feel them

sit in judgement upon me.

 

Thinking about rain-kinked

dogs and spectral budgies on

the line. Browning May

blossom sinks from track-side trees.

 

In the real world railings are

rusting and half-term kids

swap ring-tones. Back here

I consider the cathedral.

 

II

 

Reluctant. Steps take me up here.

Delaying tactics. Duck into

HMV and moan about the

price of Disco Kandi. Remonstrate.

No materialism today please.

 

Tempted by Matta’s and

tamarind paste.

 

Pigeons part like autumn leaves

before my feet. Step over boxes

of iceberg lettuce stranded in

the middle of the street.

 

Call out to Alan

looking in the window

of News from Nowhere.

‘See that book?’

‘I get slagged off in it.’

 

Onward past lingering students,

cigarettes, gum and mobile phones.

 

Shops give way to Georgian

fanlights, buddleia rooted in

gutters and gratings.

 

Curse this coat and cardigan

as the rain clears and

heat rises from the cobbles.

 

Chandeliers silhouetted in upstairs rooms.

 

Then, looming behind

a lock-up garage, the massive

tower. More solid that reality.

 

III

 

The wind is cold and strong,

the silence strident in this

high, lonely place.

 

In St James’s Cemetery

knotweed infests the graves.

A film lies unravelled in the

tussocked grass.

 

Wondering what might

have been on it, milky

celluloid beyond redemption,

 

letting the wind cool my body.

Inside, past the calls for donations

and fairtrade displays, the space

 

is sterile. Floodlit. Workmen

drop slabs that echo like thunder.

The stained glass crazy, kaleidoscopic,

 

whites out as you turn

towards the sun, over-exposed

like Jonny’s picture of ground

 

zero. A headache threatens. Tea

and food call. I keep to the

shadows, afraid lest my pagan

 

soul be exposed for all to

see. Unworthy to enter the

Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Flinch as

 

the brass bell rings out clear and

pure, the sound immortal. People

stare at me with my notebook.

 

Scribbling. Realising I can’t

read my own writing. Virtue

 is good and vice bad.

 

See, that’s chastity. The salamander

is the only creature that can

live through fire – to be

 

chaste in life you have to      

withstand fire. Turn thoughts away

look unwillingly at the altar. Feel

 

my stomach drop. Crushed

by the enormity of the space

above. Want to flee

 

to the sanctuary of the open

sky. Rain and birds. One more

echoing thud resonates

 

through ribcage and

vault. Time to leave. Hoping

that this space will

 

germinate words, will root

and grow fat now it’s

inside me.

 

 

 

 

Penance

 

Between Aughton Park and Maghull

I read the fields,

fading blond in summer’s final shining stand - except

today there is only soft grey drizzle.

 

Long-legged silhouettes spell horses

bleeding into the grass that bore them.

Leaves breathe the moisture,

their burgeoning sustained a few more heady weeks

until the frost renders them hieroglyphs.

 

We pass a field already harvested,

the dark soil broken into chocolate-splintered chunks

 

My mouth waters at the thought of its soft yielding

touch, the smell of its fruitful decay released

as my weight intrudes upon its

fallow repose.

 

The train gains speed, fine flecks of rain elongate, dash

the windows with tiny opaque prisms.

 

Vulgar colours run through the meadows.

A rabble of ragwort and fireweed blazes

over industrial ruins.

 

And there is our church.

 

Dark and hungry by the silver waters, its blackened rafters

still gaunt against a lowering sky.

 

Derelict.

 

Unconsecrated?

 

With crumbling roof and smashed windows, its emaciated form fed our imaginations, gave us succour.

 

My god, my god, why have you forsaken us?

 

In our pain we turned to this starving carcass,

as spurned and neglected as we felt.

 

And oh! the sweetness of our yearning,

dreaming, desperate

longing

for anything

worthy  of our

need.

 

God, in your absence we made our own graven images, blasphemous idols lovingly crafted with our flesh and our anguish.

 

The vision scalds me still. Our church, windows lit with scarlet flames, unconsumed by holy fire. Entering the chest cavity, I knew the building breathed, heard it sigh, felt the warmth,

smelled the sharp-sweet incense of its breath. All was dark and golden.

 

My idol, where were you?

 

You did not give yourself away.

You moved when I did, kept the rhythm of my breath.

 

I walked towards the altar, wrapped in the echo of my footfalls.

An image of white down filled my head.

I had to touch it.

 

 

 

And as my heathen hand reached out

it

became a thousand doves

who flew with softly-beating wings

up,  

ever upwards

into the unfathomable blackness.

 

The noise must have startled you, for all at once I felt your presence. I think I felt you touch me lightly on the shoulder, or perhaps I felt you wish to touch me lightly on the shoulder.

 

I could not turn to face you

- I did not know what you looked like -

you could have been anyone,

everyone.

 

I was compelled to love you from a distance. The air became solid, took the form of spiralling stairs.

 

So I ran,

round and round and

up and up until I was standing on the flaming rafters,

begging the Heavens to take on

yet another

star-smirched lover.

 

But long after you had to go, I cherished the ghost of our church silently burning

through an endless night.

 

The train plunges underground

and there is only my face in

the travel-worn glass.

 

Transport

 

The screech and whine and

rattle of movement: tarmac

and rubber and

oil and combustion.

 

Sky in two

grey bands

 

Here no yellowhammer

or hidden chiff-chaff: a

short burst

of blackbird.