Thinking about Winchester Cathedral Close, as I walked through it at the weekend and remembered the wonderful view I once had from the roof of the cathedral, over Pilgrims School to Winchester College. I visited a friend shortly afterwards and she had just had chemotherapy and was very ill with bone cancer. It was difficult to know if she would survive her treatment, but I made a kind of pact that we would do the roof tour together if she survived.
We didn’t sadly, but she bravely fought on for a further twenty years or so. I still think of her when I look up at the roof.
WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL ROOF TOUR
You have to haul yourself up by a rope:
the spiral staircase is so narrow and
the treads so shallow. I don’t think you’d cope
right now, but afterwards…
she nods, and drinks in my vivid outline
of the tour thirstily. When I’m quite through
this chemotherapy; my body’s mine
again, we must climb the tower and view
Wolvesey Palace, the Deanery, St. Cross..
Under the heavy wig her eyes burn bright.
I try not to think of her muscle loss,
or that she’s shrunk two inches of her height.
All I know is when birds return next spring,
I’ll stand on the cathedral roof alone,
or with her. Angels will be hovering,
lest we should dash our feet against a stone.
You cannot see their faces from the ground,
yet worshipful men carved exquisitely
where only God could note, their efforts crowned
in their own hearts.
We know implicitly
that all over in six months might mean that:
ambivalence a part of existence.
Magnificat; also requiescat:
twin themes in passionals of persistence.
Now she is confined in the dark stairwells
of pain where bluebottles accumulate,
but after her suffering has ceased, bells
will peal over pantiles, to celebrate
her courage, endurance, and will redound
to those whose vantage point’s on higher ground.