How we nearly met our deaths on that bend –
watching his cassock and surplice,
the white of his collar against the black;
how he offered to give us his first blessing,
just ordained that hour with no-one to celebrate,
he was giving his outfit a walk on the roads.
We knelt, what else could we do?
His voice held the yearn of the ages,
threat of a gift we could not refuse.
It told of mass rocks and penal laws
the power of dissolving marriages
the fourth secret of Fatima.
We knelt to feel that life was serious,
though our fishing rods awaited and the flies
we tied that morning might be wilting,
though lake shadow would be moving fish
toward the bank where weeds
would reach right up to catch our lines.
We knelt and felt the power of his illusion;
he might have been talking to his lonely self,
counting things that tie him to the world,
no inheritance, but a scattering of Latin,
and a sense of the largeness of the arguments.
When he lifted a white hand, so clean
and clear was that hand that it drew
a world as it moved, a rise and fall
in it like a boat on a spring swell.
We didn’t hear a word he said.
Just at Amen, the ford transit van hurtled
round the corner and we leapt, sprang
from kneeling, jumped clear into the hedge,
scratches on our hands, thorns
in our sweaters, the cleric akimbo.
We nearly met our deaths,
but maybe we were ready
as ready as we’ll ever be
given his first blessing.
Siobhan Campbell is an award-winning poet, author of four collections. She received the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize in 2016. Cross-Talk from Seren Press is ‘unsparingly strong… a fine and ferocious book’ PNReview. Her new book, Heat Signature is due in 2017 along with Inside History: Eavan Boland from Arlen House. You can find out more about her at siobhancampbell.com @poetrySiobhan