Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Merchant's Hope

1 Merchant’s Hope

With believing hands they placed a
Brick on a brick, each act a measure
of their faith and settled mind. At
Merchant’s Hope the black-glazed
brick and perfect lunette bring to
mind a lighted, purer past,
made simple by the lack of that
we see encumbering our lives.

That it’s a church seems more to show,
in the closers and studied arch,
leaning always eastward, as they
had compasses and eyes to use them,
faith had every day its light,
yellowed perhaps, and on some days
too feeble for even firm flesh
to feel, but always on the lintel,
and sang again at dawn and dusk.
Would they change, if given it,
the idea of faith in simpler flesh
for the impediments of Godless time?
Do these cushions and the central air
make the round of love the less,
belief the more ambiguous,
and every miracle so common?
Or, removed by centuries and
all the busyness in every day,
do we esteem them not real flesh,
forgetting in ourselves their faults,
who shared our bread, kept slaves, looked
at a neighbor’s wife with calm intent,
and bastardized the land for gain?

At least we feel all peace is here,
Between the finished arch and fallow dead.

Southwark Parish

2 Southwark Parish

Across the water and the land
vague stillness lives, as if the flesh
were not here, but bent along
the common fields and unkept houses
that remain: a fuller feeling
in the hearts of us who stay
on the edge where highways and
the sculpted farms give way to
silence and the fallen brickwork.

The past we are, in flourishes
of molecules upon the cells,
makes us both dead and living.
They who lie upon the earth
are us; we tasted on the lea
the salt-tinged victuals they ate,
felt the swell among us move,
and quickened in the act of freedom.

Here upon the land their shapes pesist
from folded meadows to the knoll where
stands a lighted house again.
An arch of dreams transmits the present
to the peopled past. Again the
clutter of a rural mind fills
the straightened bricks with simple faith
or faith made in a different soil.
Life awakening the ever dead.

From the present, too, we
bring ourselves to the body.


3 Yeocomico

Near the road an earth-kiln was
the product of a deeper yearning
than that of flesh which labored it.
Each one put upon his hand the

holiness of clay, more pure than
nightjar’s calls across repointed
furnishing that now remain, where
a road crests among the furrows.

The looming square of transept
and crossing at an angle mark
more firm along the coming dark
the certitudes of simple faith.

So they loved who were the body
of a surer time of soul, who
knew corruption in its forms more
quietly than we imagine

flesh decays and swells to light. Yet
the mind was stronger and the wall
elected with a calmer hand
than we who name it can invent.

Glebe Church

4 Glebe Church

Repointed arches, one door, and the
chuff chuff of a tractor on the glebe,
not the dray of horses. To speak
with a voice more suddenly my own.

As silently as time can whippet,
swallows wicker on the evening air.
Return to brick; few remain
between directions of modernity.

Though plumb and fast, square at least
upon one corner, little is
placed where they left it, matchlocks
and steel plows against the wilderness.

Is it less now, when we have made
a monument and token for
ourselves among the spoken walls
and, redolent of singing, choir?

Once fallen, are they the less, so
laboriously as they were piled,
sunlight angled on the mortar
stippling a prayer to evening?

Is this past dead, or do we have
in it a vision of a purer
arch, completed rondelle, and a
firmer door like the faith that was?
5 St. John’s Chuckatuck

Between the roads, among the trees.
Twisting in a course above the
Green skinned pond that lies,

Has lain, the centuries, the circle
Of water persists from vapor
To piercing drops that fall upon

Us who live. The faith, too, lives
In our minds as in the English
Bond that stays as it was known,

Then the only force solidity.
Six by one and ten rows thick, the
Faith considered permanent as

Clay borrowed from the river’s edge
Convenient for use and dried
In sunlight by the stalking wheat

And reflecting pond, waiting for
The faith to place each courseWith faultless line and enduring life.

Grace Church, Yorktown

6 Grace church, Yorktown

Still, colored shadows. It is not
The building that is still, but we
Who stand at twilight by the red-
Stained walls, eroded to curves,

Yet changed by the same hands
That laboriously cut and

Shaped uneven rectangles of
Marl, the leavings of unthinking
Creatures, accumulated through
The passage, heat, pressure of years.

Shells, once articulate, bivalve
Dissolving to blunt rock, made the walls

Sufficient to have stayed, but we have
Not the faith to keep them as they
Were placed, through the fallow years
The yard destroyed as the walls.

Blocks, though brown, are red in the
Light of certain sun, like us who pass.

Upper Chapel, Middlesex

7 Upper Chapel, Middlesex

The particularity of place,
Of time, is woven on the day
Where the mullioning of shadowed brick
Is covered by an intricate
And spreading web of briar.

Green stalks crowd the standing walls,
A lattice of pale, finite lines,
As the light upon the churchyard
Falls particular. Each day the
Aspiring stem reaches far

Toward sun. The chemic nature of
The waiting sprouts to energy,
Writhes a pattern on the crossing brick
And jutting cornice, pulled each day
By shallow paths of sunlight.

Lives were once upon this place
Pressed, intricate in woven tapestries,
Above the structured core flourishing,
Hidden like the fragrant briars
Growing always to the east.