Poems

Published in Assent 64/3 2011

For Maureen with deepest gratitude

Telling the Stained Glass

At a guess, it’s located two and half heights of you
above us, recessed in an arm’s depth of stone.

The window itself, maybe three times your height
and in width, four yous nestling side by side,

and then one more you lying on top, rounded
like the arch we traced in the outer north wall.

There are two bands of coloured glass running
round the entire window to frame the centre,

both bands less than one width of you.
The outer, wider in the top third than the bottom.

In colour? Sombre. Neither cold nor warm.
Lenten penitence, or Advent and hope

like velvet folds that ripple,
ripple the mystery of, of eternity.

The next band in, still less than one you width,
wider this time at the bottom than the top,

with an inside edge that lines up to frame
the central vertical rectangle, two yous wide.

The top of the band is night, and the bottom is day.
A calm but alert night, wisps of clouds

and a few bleached stars,
lights like the tug of vitreous on retina.

The day is mown spring grass,
crisp as an apple, fragrant as mint.

The central rectangle… I should have said,
none of the lines of the image are harsh

but wavy, free drawn. And I didn’t at first see
there are nine equal panels of glass running

side to side, stacked one above the other,
dark lines between that don’t distract from the whole.

Back to that rectangle… it’s like your cheeks
when you’re angry and when we make love

it’s the ground awash with the blood of martyrs
or covered in the pomp of triumphant kings,

it’s a warning and an answer, fire, solid,
riven with fault lines or shocked electricity

it bears and it gives bread for the taking,
thirteen pieces of broken sun (with a u).

We look at the scene as though from above,
thirteen loaves ready on the table for

thirteen heads that are worlds like white or red
cabbages but with the texture of, of a Savoy.

I’m not being flippant. They bend over the table,
figures half there, half in the day or the night.

There are six down each side and one…
No, not at the head but the foot

from where we stand, looking up, head back,
looking down on or into or along or…

Strange that. We don’t fit into the empty place
which edges, opens into the night, to beyond.

One of the twelve, on the left, second from bottom
is pulled back, swirling dark, almost split.

No, no purse, but I think you’re right.
Yes, the others are unnerved.

The one who serves them looks set on a cross
tipped on its side with arms, hands

two give to him from the deep place,
and with two he gives.

I give you, give you daily bread
take, eat, do this, remember.

The Daily Bread Window, by Mark Angus, is located in the nave of Durham Cathedral.

© Helena Durham

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