Issue 154, Spring 2000
The Rector's picking something from his teeth
(lunch) when I ring his doorbell to inquire
if I might see the church. (He plays it with
both hands, that mouth harp.) Wait for the verger,
he says; so in a plaza of glazed tile
next to the City of London School for Girls,
lulled by the estrous music of voices
and the sway of bodies,
I wait, until an old door opens inwards.
And though the verger has not yet returned,
the organ teacher says, "If you don't mind,
I'll lock you in," and goes. That rinse of light,
clear and Protestant, stirs an opposite,
a deep, medieval sluggishness in me.
The ditch outside contains "great store of verie
good fish, of diverse sorts,"
their piebald torpor roused to commotion
by cast bread, just as the notes of the organ
(Dumage, Bach, Stanford) first cause me to panic:
How will I get out, though? She must unlock
the door at once! My life—and then I feel
the thin smile from a sunken lip of marble
near the communion table, where the poet
who passed the ferry backward into light
lies with his father; and I hear a voice:
The ghost of a linen decency yet haunts us.
But true it is God raises to his work
some of ability not to look back—