On visiting St James

A poem byT Kleanthous

Was a climb into the steeple wise?
On wooden steps that held me
Solid in their age and reassurrance,
smiling at my fear and unaccepting faith
Offering my nervous, wandering gaze
A view of where I came from
Wood that has no thoughts for architects
Whose savage fellow saw his lovely church
In masonry and bricks, flagstones laid
And solid ‘neath our feet

Steeples piled on monumental secrets
Lightened by their columns
Accompanying their cousin clock
Once unique and proud
Informing previous generations
bound in massive weights
All deftly hidden by their loving entrance
And sounded by their calling bells

Then, inside St.James’ walls which wear
Some tablets of remembrance
Remembering a family of deaths
destroyed by accident
When their boat sank on the Thames
Remembrance of a past bound up
Not in masonry, but feelings,
Full and living in our memory
Where time does not exist
Except to count our recollections

Including passages of time
In James’ neighbourhood
Where archway traders now repair and sell
But once in wartime, Druid Street became
a place of indiscriminating death
Disseminating grief, one wartime night,
On those who sought a shelter.

We sing to happy melodies
But in these notices of death
There is the housing of ourselves
That mixes vast emotions
Living faster and much greater depths
Than lights and galaxies enjoy

This church amongst its family of builds
Funded by a nation’s wealth
To celebrate a nation’s pomp
In victory of war, or maybe
Gratitude for peace to prosper
Now cloaked in modern builds
Of streamlined flats
Hiding all except the steeple
But left with welcome space
That lights its windows
Lighting congregations
And lifting walls to greater heights
Lightening their load
Their roof a lighter share to carry

Traveller’s waiting respite
When their journey has abated
Stayed on garden benches
Cast by lovely blue skies
Walking round its yard
And finding fountained love
set by a wife, refreshing us
Remembering her husband

These handsome churches
We treat like aging relatives
We’d like to care for
But a burden in our busy lives
But unlike us, there here to stay
And catch all kinds of memories
We’ll never know ourselves
And for this thought alone
We should surround them with
Our visitations
And hope our care suffices
For their keep and future generations