“Dear Husband while my life did last
My love to you was true and chaste
Therefore for me no sorrow take
And love my children for my sake.”
Inscription on Jane Weeks tomb; St Lawrence Church, Priddy
with the curl that never stayed behind her ear,
wife of a beloved John,
who liked to tuck it back.
Gone to her maker,
on a cold February morning,
when the fog rolled in cross the Mendips
and cloaked his grief from her eyes.
How proud the day when she first said her name.
Weeks, months, years.
Loving, children, silence.
He didn’t last long past her reckoning,
did our John.
He tended his brood,
nursed his rheumatism,
lit a candle on the 8th of the month.
But come May,
and the water flowing
and the animals making love in the pasture
he crossed the threshold into Jane’s arms.
Buried in the church on the hill,
high up on the hill of the grey-lined Mendips,
hearts speaking in the cold coffin of slate.
John Plummer lies here,
a boon to the parish,
a man of the world who left something from God.
Lie peaceful, John Plummer, your works live after you,
and are remembered in length on the walls.
This stalwart man, this paragon of benefaction,
left his farm,
his carefully tended,
fruitful soil and the green grass of Somerset,
to the poor and the needy,
A small repentance for all the hours,
he snored in the service
and forgot the pennies were in his pocket for collection.
He had no Jane, but had his farm,
and gave Priddy leave to love it
for old times’ sake.
In the glass a girl with a pony
stands frozen in stained golden glory
blue skied optimism
smiling down from her lead-lined perch
on the congregation hairs.
is dedicated to a lass and her horse
by her parents pining
for a lost youth.”
Crystallized she is forever lank-limbed and lucky,
a rainbow radiance,
and we do not see her sicken,
age into twenty,
her favorite left to run the grass to dust and hardened earth
without a rider.
A dedication to the churchgoers of Priddy,
letting light in from a slip of a girl.
On the wall are three wise men,
their names hardly matter,
it was so long ago.
But by their sides are red rampant banners,
with black center buttons,
paper plastic memories by a woman or two
who still feel the blood
pushing sluggishly round vein-skinned arms.
Every year they prop their poppies
on the shelf below the scrolling names.
For such a small village as Priddy
three men to the war was much to give.
Taken on the sodden fields of France,
amidst a muck that bore no real resemblance to home,
a home for all its faults.
Thus stands the Church of St Lawrence,
hidden high on the hill at Priddy.
An early Gothic building,
consecrated 10th of August 1352.
A sweltering day,
how cool the stones must have been,
and the yard still unscattered with its graves.
First the ears, and then the head,
popping up in quick succession
from the tall grass.
Like the radar of bats,
that sensitive he was
to the brushing swish of
slightly sticky Queen Anne’s Lace.
Poor little thing,
so startled in his hollow,
not expecting human kind
in the early evening.
I was the tortoise,
crushing, not bending, the grass
in dogged determination to reach the gate.
But he did not care to run.
For as I came round the corner, I saw
that there was not one,
And now bred to being English,
I averted my eyes
and murmured something about the weather.
The man with the straw hat,
and the stalky hair,
and dry to the point.
With the sign, fresh-painted,
and the crimson waistcoat,
perched on the lip
where the footpath meets the street.
Whistling to the steady stream
that runs past his eye:
There’s Fudge that’s Free!”
In the door,
in the room,
with the smell of sugar,
And he kicks up a leg,
and throws back an arm,
and shouts to the walkers
who tilt their heads down.
“LIVE FOR THE MOMENT?”
in a last desperate plea.