In memory of Cecil Frances Alexander
She’d gone back inside to their room...he
was still out on the terrace chasing sleep –
taking a virtual tour of the moon, the stars
the planets; heavenly bodies with nothing else
to do but spend eternities travelling our way
on a beam of light.
Neither had spoken. They’d said all there was to say;
all that remained was to pray to god to save her...
the same god blessed their marriage with a daughter.
A bishop and a woman six years older than he; perhaps
their church was right – it was a sin, and this –
the reason their child was sick.
Theirs was a silence like that moment when the sea
pulls back, and the ether, timelessly, waits
for the next, inevitable crescendo.
Yesterday – Good Friday, and she thinks about
Derry – where she lives, with its rolling hills beyond
the old stone wall. How like Calvary she imagined
it to be, and to take her mind of things, she begins
to write, a get-well hymn for her daughter.
Fascinating, she muses...words – a vocabulary
where ‘night’ rhymes with ‘light’ and ‘death’
with ‘breath’, recalling what she’d read
in the darkest of the Books of Life...how
it warned of the peril of looking at things
too often, too deeply;
nine hundred and ninety-nine times is OK,
but on the thousandth, it would be dangerously
close to seeing them for the first time.
Mars glowed – blood orange, until a breeze
blew it astray, and on the red-stemmed
dogwood bush – blossoms like tiny crosses,
as dawned Easter day, and jonquils and narcissus
took on the pallor of the morning, and she wrote
about a green hill, far away.