Once through the door it’s easy to blend in
among the crowd, inside this new, bizarre,
interior: a churches gothic twin,
gone bad. The apse converted to a bar;
the whisky optics where a crucifix
once hung. Lunch menus in the vestibules,
now private alcoves of transparent bricks.
Close by, a busy transept filled with stools
and tables where the punters sip their beer.
The match, like new stained glass, on plasma screens,
is why the people came; nobody here
is bothered what transfiguration means,
or what this barn-like chamber used to be.
Redacted of religion and the dead,
the holy end vibrates a litany
of ordered rounds and laughter in their stead.
Then later on, and with a different crowd,
there’s karaoke for the bourgeoisie,
and alcopops where once young couples vowed
with sober reverence, fidelity;
Who rarely now, if ever, come again
to where their marriages began; aghast,
in awe of how their memories remain,
to find that faith and God could never last
reduced to scattered pensioners and dean,
to whom a new reality appeared:
Of skips and scaffolding, and urban schemes
of landscaped graveyards, weedy pavements cleared,
a life within the neighbourhood restored,
returned to those it lost like melting snow,
who gave up on the hope it offered, bored,
worn out by deference. It had to
but left the framework of this shell intact.
A jet-washed cenotaph, for them, as much
as those who sold the place: the faith they lacked
like coldness still inside the walls. The touch
of it remembered in the bevelled stone
and travertine surrounding every door,
where once the elders exited the drone
of countless ministers. The Sunday chore
transformed to visits to the shops or gym,
to come here for amusement afterwards,
for alcohol, which like the seraphim
has presence as pervasive as the Lord’s;
Who, as the former landlord of the place,
must sigh as once He did at empty pews,
to see the local football fans embrace
and waste their wages on expensive booze.
But even now, I know they’ll say they’re not
unrighteous. Faith to them is Christmas trees
and wedding plans, and bells. What they forgot
seems truer now, outside this place of ease
and dissonance. To find religion real
they look at bedtimes in their children’s eyes -
or know it by the feelings they conceal,
inside the half-baked bluff philosophies
and imitations of their dad, their friends,
made certain of that need by loyalty
to them. Unsure, not knowing why life ends,
but hoping with a native decency
to understand the God which came before,
inside a mortgaged cloister of their own,
not one their parents left, hands held, who
to raise their children in a Christian home.
If you have any comments on this poem, David Condell would be
pleased to hear from you.