Westminster Abbey – With Vital Footnote

Some of you may know that our Chair, Charlotte is also the current Canterbury Poet of the Year. Here is her poem In Westminster Abbey (with vital footnote) – Charlotte says, I wrote this on the train home from London just before Christmas, before everything closed down again. Seeing Westminster Abbey without the crowds was something quite special and as things open up again, I urge people to go, visit and take some flowers for Aphra.

Westminster Abbey – With Vital Footnote

Soft-soled volunteers stalk the Abbey floor -

red caped-crusaders battling each grain

of dust and that old tourist-question again

“Excuse me, where can I find Henry and Jane?”

The answer no-one wants: “Windsor”.

“Sorry, no photos,” but poems are fine.

Plastic-wrapped flowers in red and in white

are Confessor-grave-laid and so, chastised, I write,

thinking the illustrious Saxon wouldn’t have liked

roses if he knew that war loomed down the line.

Vacuum-noise hums as singing is banned

And Mary’s effigy lies in bloody repose,

stomach bloated with cancer, no heir to propose

but a sister she hated and so history goes,

petrifying the great and all they had planned.

Johnson’s in the Nave, buried alone,

but Dickens and Hardy find comfort in pairs

and Spencer is hiding behind a pile of grey chairs

And Aphra’s outside (but nobody cares),

I ask for her grave and have to be shown.

Cromwell’s old tomb is ironically full

with sons of the son of the man he replaced.

Their mourners are ministers, marbled in debate,

some standing proud, some crudely defaced

by night-sneaking-boys from some boarding school.

Here’s Anne of Bohemia, thin-faced and grey

and near the exit a grave, holding twenty-six men

who died when the Black Death swept London again.

Removing my mask, I step out into the rain,

wishing this plague and the weather away.

Nota Bene – Reinter Aphra Behn inside Poet’s Corner

Posted on March 7th 2021

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