Further Tom Denny stained glass. From Upper Slaughter church, Cotswolds.
Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
And, while we are on a theme of pilgrimage, here is a poem about a pilgrim embarking for Compostela by taking communion at Talmont in Charente Maritime, prior to sailing down the Gironde:
I carried our sins all the way, coquette,
my calloused heels crushing cackling demons
and saw the face of Christ radiating
from each basin-bearing hospitaller.
I beat back hell-hounds in every hameau,
with my bog oak staff, my waisted gourd poured
down a parchment throat, as parched as the paths
I’d traversed to totter on that jetty.
Discarded oyster shells scarified soles,
as I scrambled onto the final ship
and I tried to erase your siren face
which haunted me from corbels, chevets
and polychromatic stone caskets,
from Aulnay, Saintes- and even Talmont.
Over the glittering estuary,
the Damascene sun glared epiphany.
Host fragments on my tongue, salt tang on teeth,
I’d hoped that the next kiss of a chalice
would transport me home, with my talisman:
a stringed scallop, showing where I had been.
Then I scattered blood-red hollyhock seeds,
like blisters, into the wake, trusting that
each would burst into a pillar of fire,
to illuminate my return voyage
I would walk over waves, though I was lame.
I’d wrestle with archangels, tear my nails
on all those petrified palmers’ handprints,
into which I’d press my desperation.
From Santiago I would come, burning,
like a bush that could never be consumed:
shriven, forgiven, ready for Heaven.
Now you too must go beyond the Gironde.