The place was falling apart.
A stony soul,
That was as clear as anything.
The crumbling steeple, missing window panes,
Soft stone steps worn like a ramp
More than anything defined.
The late vicar’s wife used to say that it wouldn’t take
More than a windy night
Or two windy nights to blow the whole sorry place down to the lake
At the bottom of the hill.
‘Church, in the lake!’ she would bellow,
Smacking her walking stick
Against the table leg like a mad percussionist, and they all laughed.
When the vicar checked the weather forecast
Before morning-prayer. It was a March morning,
When they found her body. The police
Said she’d wandered across the ice,
Trying to reach a piece
Of Stained Glass, thrust from the top frame overnight.
They found the piece, too,
Half sunken into the Swollen Flesh of her hand,
The sleeping face of Jacob on his rock
Poking from between
The pale fingers. They moved the church meetings
Up the path
To a small room in the manor house
Beyond the fence, with green walls and an old smell.
It was open to the public, as was the church building
And the track down to the lake.
Only the walled garden
Was off-limits, though walkers
Often peeked over to look. It was mostly grass,
A few patches of earth
That the volunteers worked on when they had time
(Squares of brown fuzzy growth and weak yellow shoots)
Or when the school groups came.
One of them
Had broken a chunk of the wall in a rage,
Something about the soil
Being too hard,
Or the trowels too cold.
There was an angry trail
Of Smashed Pieces, carrot,
That Donna found later. ‘Teenagers,’
She Grumbled in the church café afterwards, ‘Do not care
For vegetables.’ She dipped a bourbon into her tea.
Barely hearing. The people who owned the manor house
Had called by after lunch, they wanted to change
The church room
Into a bookshop. The National Trust people,
With their suits and fresh smell like the sea. All National Trust properties
Have a bookshop, the man said.
He had big glasses,
Like two empty televisions. Rick said
He’d think on it, but it wasn’t really fair. Jackie’s funeral seemed too recent.
He could still smell the roses and the wood.
Donna washed her hands
In hot water, her blue fingers thawing,
Scraping the black earth from under her nails. It was Four PM. The early spring sunset
Was drawing in,
And there was one more job to be done.