Fountains Abbey

Fountains-Abbey-FullIt was here before, just so –
the long straight avenue
parting luxurious chestnut trees
and families of deer browsing
up to the Burges church
festooned with gilded angels
and parrot-coloured windows.
But was it I who walked it
with a heart full of frights
and a head of broken melodies?

It was there, just so –
the old tearoom staring out
to that lake shore reflecting
its hazy woodland double.
Jackdaws with grey buzzcuts
and blue marble eyes
still scratch for crumbs of baking
under terrace tables as before.
The recipe for currant scones
I’m sure remains unaltered.

It was here, I know –
the great wreckage of an abbey
gazed upon by countless
God-thirsty Cistercian eyes.
They called for Him
in rough white robes
before the plagues and fires
and swaggering monarchs
drove them all to hide amongst
the softening folds of time.

I wonder now how well
these walls remember
all their Latin pleas,
the quiet quarrels in the dark,
long and satisfying labours,
or lingering in summer meadows.
The walls I saw as strict and grey,
up close are shades
of mild sand and roses,
sugared rhubarb and custard.

God was here, I’m certain,
even thirty years ago,
and waited for me everywhere.
If I but had the nerve to hear Him
in the furtive rustle
of a ground-dwelling thing,
or the plash of brown-headed gulls,
skimming the river for minnows.
To see Him in the curls of this new fern
or that baby-faced blossom of haw.

Was it I who walked here, really?
No, not quite, or not so fully.
More now this self who tramps
a steep path up upwards,
gulping greedy lungfuls
of moss-scented air
and mists of wild garlic,
feasting on the echoes of birdsong,
greeting the rain with family fondness
as a cloud comes down to meet me.

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2 Responses to Fountains Abbey

  1. Bhashini June 19, 2016 at 3:58 pm #


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