Pilgrim

Year on year, as Advent fell
he came, unfailing, bustling
in from the old forest gate
bundled against the arctic pinch
threadbare seaman’s greatcoat
buttonless, cinched with bailer twine
unofficial surveyor, mapping a crooked
pilgrimage from parish to parish
no shrine, no objective, just
an unsaid impulse to move on.

The spore stained lych gate’s ruddy
stonework his shelter, he lay
sleeping his punctured sleep of vivid
concussions tearing the ocean horizon
fractured ships in stark silhouette
while hushed ranks of yew
and sculpted seraphs stood by
unmoved by his nocturnal torment.

At Eucharist, the organ’s thunder seemed
to soothe, banish the imps that beset
that spirit rent like a merchantman’s hull
sluicing through the breach, bathing
his weary, battle-crippled heart.
His song, a shapeless, dissonant descant
Babel shout, joyful howl, rose
on thermals of bitter myrrh
soaring to the gilded chancel’s vault.

Then one year we missed him
and then the next, until one day
we learned his soul, in some other
icebound boneyard, had quit the fight
to keep the terror of that boiling
Atlantic abyssal ever at his back.

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7 thoughts on “Pilgrim

  1. Wow! That’s quite a verse ain’t it?

    What jumped out at me were these lines, and I quote:

    “…while hushed ranks of yew
    and sculpted seraphs stood by
    unmoved by his nocturnal torment….”

    I am left wondering how such an unlikely combination of yews and angels could stand in vigil under the situation?

    Shakti

    Like

  2. My personal favorite stanza from this piece:

    “At Eucharist, the organ’s thunder seemed
    to soothe, banish the imps that beset
    that spirit rent like a merchantman’s hull
    sluicing through the breach, bathing
    his weary, battle-crippled heart.
    His song, a shapeless, dissonant descant
    Babel shout, joyful howl, rose
    on thermals of bitter myrrh
    soaring to the gilded chancel’s vault.”

    Evocative of Yeats, Wordsworth, and also Gerard Manley Hopkins with its sprung rhythm-esque diction and musicality (the work entire as well). But again, of your own singular voice, Julian. Lovely to read. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

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