I do not pray these days.
The faith is gone
Which underpinned such rites.
Yet do I still,
In quiet moments
Of the day and night,
Commend you to the gods,
Call down upon you
Joy and health and peace
And days of grace.
Now the water flows,
As healing sun
Melts through the winter snows.
When I consider, in the Sistine light,
The hand of Adam and the hand of God,
Their fingers meeting in the gift of Life,
I see the vital spark from left to right
Ignite and spring. So much for Genesis.
In Man’s own image, God’s persona grows
And languid Adam life on God bestows.
I travelled light this time
And came to Rome without
To pin my conscience down,
Free now to excavate,
From strata of belief
And primitive taboos,
Some vestiges of truth.
Now, gods and ages merge.
Inscriptions, sculpted all
By one perennial hand,
In unison proclaim
The noble promises
And hollow alibis
Of each successive age.
St. Peter’s colonnades
And fallen architraves
Of Augustan temples
Possess this in common:
All are, terminally,
In varying stages
No crying of the geese,
High on the Capitol,
Can protect the City
Against time and reason.
The pavement is empty where once the men
Assembled after Mass to chew the cud
And roll a stringy cigarette or two,
Exchanging incense smoke for nicotine.
The women chatted homewards in the wake
Of hungry children, full of Sabbath grace,
With all the hours of Sunday yet to come,
Spread out before them like a wedding feast.
All that is gone. Where once the altar stood
And candles burned before the Lord of Hosts.
The magpies stalk and heavy builders’ trucks,
Removing rubble, send up clouds of dust.
The demolition of our parish church.
Poem finished 27.3.89