ST. THEOC CHOOSES THE SITE OF HIS CHAPEL
I will not build where caterwauling seagulls dig
their beaks into soft soil. Screech high and wailing
like colicky babies throughout the day.
Nor where bright marsh-marigolds spring shining.
Bright as gold coins flung randomly
as only a king could hurl.
I dare not encroach upon water-meadows
flood-fed and broad. Lake-fields bring
green birth but halt good travels of citizens
nearby; submerge their hard-worked crops.
I shall choose this hill of gentle height
and middling girth. Neatly plateaued,
with room to plant both chapel
wing and tree, when times allow.
Where our congregation prays will be
duly elevated, lifted as an offering.
A place for hope to be as surely raised.
As our prayer rises, we too shall be
lifted closer to our God.
RAILWAY ARCHES IN BIRMINGHAM
Arches loop across Digbeth then on,
out of town.
Each one old, shadowed, eerie.
A scene in black-and-white noir.
I imagine a man in a hat,
nonchalantly leaning, peering through
a cigarette’s smoky plume.
The brick-built curves entice and terrify.
Hold dark and damp in blue masonry
lofty black heights.
Pigeon calls rustle like ghosts
and in city-sun, light polishes one wall.
The opposite holds shadowed doors
to factories, workshops,
grubby little dens.
Who knows who might be in there?
When a train clatters over,
the arches judder.
Tremble like cold flesh, rumble
and rattle like thunder.
At night, they are impenetrable.
Other-worldly, as if entering means
you will never come out.
They span roads, factories,
the oil-slicked canal.
Seem to march on to forever.
Held between tall dry banks, the river
rises swiftly in winter.
Stealthily covers small shale beaches.
Carved between banks that curve
like whale ribs up to meadows above.
It takes loose-rooted willows, debris.
Badly tethered boats, sheep.
Scoops up everything loose left behind.
The surface never stills.
Carries movements jerky as anger.
Fierce as flung fists.
Holds loops and whirls of spinning surges.
Tiny whirlpools, rolling, grasping eddies.
Overspill at the bank’s lip looks gentle,
Yet the speed of its flow can grasp
Drag you down.
Carry you light as a twig as you gulp for air.
Spin you over and over as insignificant as
a storm-fallen branch.
Leave your body somewhere you’ve never