In a score of churchyards everywhere, graves
marked by families and friends recall gratitude
in death, or for them, being gone. What lies
beneath are bones, the ungovernable corruption
of the flesh, wood fragments, nails, a chemist’s
stain in the eyeless earth, perhaps a rag of cloth.

Around this church, as far as maybe seen,
these saddened stones stoop with their age,
their messages of hope a whisper from unseen,
their function as a hold upon the living
long erased by other scores of deaths.

Today, the stones have lined the consecrated
ground to form a wall that makes a garden
for the dead. A corner holds small squares,
tin vases, jarred flowers dead and dying,
a card or two in deepest sympathy,
for burials of ash, where modern times
have quickly merged their owner’s solid
flesh with smoke and air. A road runs
past, which, widened to allow the traffic
of Edwardians and their servants, took out
square yards of land and burials. So we may
safely park, secure now in the world to come.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ketton

2 thoughts on “SACRED TO THE MEMORY

  1. Thank you, John. How hard it appears to relieve a gloomy theme with a touch of irony. Thomas Gray’ s treatment of the theme in his “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” sank in “The Preface to the Lyrical Ballads”.


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