Clarence Rigby, Dean of Chapel (front row,
second from the right) clamps the edges
of his coat together with a tight white fist.
Perhaps he feels the cold. Perhaps he’s covering
his heart. X rays haven’t been invented
yet he has some sense, a prescient fear…
He suspects the camera of trying to photograph
his soul. And what would such an image show?
The mark of man’s ancestral sin? He doubts this.
The origin of everything’s becoming blurred.
Nearby, on Dover Beach, the tide has turned.
Clarence Rigby walks the wasteland streets
selling the truths of irreligion door to door.
The gold-embossed encyclopaedias
are all he has to cherish in a life entirely
gutted by the unforetold withdrawal of a God
he misses more and more as each door
closes in his face. Alone in his small room
his fingers trace the fading stars
of the Via Lactia (Volume 18). In Bengal they say:
Akasaganga: Shadowed Way. In Chechnya:
Ça Taxina Taça: The Route of Scattered Straw.
Church-going or Church Going? Clarence Rigby
can’t decide. He shrugs and props his bike
against the wall. He removes his cycle clips
and steps inside. He knows the drill. He genuflects
and finds a pew. It’s tempting still: the musty darkness,
the placid saints, soft-faced and candle-gold,
the crimson flicker of the sanctuary light.
And deferential ghosts. Their whispers paw his memory:
Yes Father. Bless me Father. He lights a candle.
For himself? For them? For old times’ sake?
We can’t be sure. He exits quietly; closes the door