The church clings to the cliff like a limpet
stamped on its rock by the deserting tide;
a lash of gale grapples the branches
of surrounding trees to reenact
a batter of waves on abandoned wharves.
Flexing her waist, she forces a course
to haven – the steps of the stony porch
and a warmth of hymns whispering beyond
the half-opened oaken threshhold.
Safe from the storm, she struts her hands
to her shaking knees, shivers and hauls
wafts of incence and waxy smokes
into her lungs laced in their ribs.
The choir pauses as her pulse calms.
"They sing of Christmas, each in their stall, and call
on all good people: witness hope and joy
for God is born in Bethlehem, a boy
whose flesh was sent to heal the world, our fall
from Eden’s grace forgiven, if we let
his promises take root deep in our hearts."
When she tightens the sash of her stolen coat
she decides against the sacred echoes
of the vicar’s chants, chooses instead
the dark enticements of a door to her right
that leads her earthwards, to the ancestors' lair.
"But all I see are bones and skulls, their arts
no more than layered deaths, a coronet
of jaws, a weave of joints now set amidst
these puckered arches carved by ancient minds
whose skulls sit still on shelves. There must be more
than this … the song that leaves a throat is fixed
not by the ear, but more a hope that binds
our bones to yearn for greater, safer shores."