Apprentice Pillar

Ekphrastic Poetry

They have eaten the sins of the world
these eight fishy dragons, scaleless serpents
with absurdly webbed wings.

Entwined round this stony bole the swim
its massive girth neither fish nor fowl
and from their elver jaws vines

coil heavenwards, stripped of speckled leaves,
flowers, the temptations of fruit,
like unfledged prayers wafting

into the moss-green light. He dreamt these
sandstone pleats and waves, a pillar so intricate,
his Master killed, jealous to see it reaching

towards a rosary of stars, the vault of Virgin lilies,
stone daisies of innocence, unnamed flowers
that open in Adoration of the sun.

I come to its sheltering from a sluice of Scottish rain
And find an eastern architrave that reads:
“ wine is strong, a King stronger,

women are stronger, but truth conquers all”
and wonder if such words apply to me here
in God’s garden where all’s right with the world.

It’s the second time: lured by loneliness,
the carved acanthus leaves where Green Men scowl,
angles blow crumhorns, twang zithers, plonk on lyres.

I could claim it’s the art or history; it’s easy
to be seduced by ancient certainties when
days feel like orchards blighted

by frost or latticed vines pruned bare.
When all old familiarities –
Children, lovers with arms as strong

as forest twine braided around the dark
heartwood have gone, and I am forced back to
this stripped centre, to apprentice dreams.

From Ghost Station
Published by Salt 2004

Apprentice pillar, Rosslyn Chapel, built 1446-1484

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