Saturday, 4 February 2017

"Parish Register" --- poem by Mary Monk

I tiptoe down the side-aisles of churches; seek
old books in older vestries, and disturb
the slumbered quiet of cobwebs, finished lives,
of parsons, parchments,
Effigies and mice.

And there it is –
in crabby antique hand,
a re-occurring name I bear myself.

How curious it feels,
this sturdy unseen link
running beneath the various spellings,
births and deaths,
back through a swathe of history;
forgotten lives
of men and women caught in hour-glass time
who lived and loved and fought,
and marked their day
with vivid details.

                Silently, they speak
through dusty registers, as heavy as
the see-through shot-through flags that drowse above
with glory, fear
and tales that they could tell.

How strange that ancient stone and massive fonts
become less real to me than names and dates!
And tiny clues of those whose blood I share
(stone-mason, drayman, hatter, parlour-maid,
long-dead professions) pounce upon my mind
so that I wonder from what hidden spring
which fevered dream
or unfulfilled desire
my heart has whispered, years long, ghostly songs
that tug beneath the reach of everyday.

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