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Monday 16 July 2012
The Parish Church Corpse
Between heaven and hell
down crumbling concrete steps
behind a veil of trailing ivy
to a basement area
and oaken door -
frighteningly left ajar -
and through the door
(both with shoulders pushing)
to a half state
neither tomb nor church
but chilling dark
is where we meet him, him
whom we have never met before -
the church corpse,
laid in state upon a trestle table,
headless in a gown a deeper dark
than lampblack. So we wait, my friend
and I, our eyes' adjustment to
the dark. The corpse is more pro-active: sits
bolt upright, growls at us, his face
revealed now as he pulls the surplice
down that covered it, and smooths
it over the black cassock that he wears.
He growls again. (And no, we have not run,
could not have run.) (And no, we didn't
do that either!) "What's you doin' 'ere?"
Another growl. We see now that the
gown and surplice are both frayed
and grubby. He's still not overjoyed
to se us, that is clear. Did we awaken him?
We made no noise. "Git Moliere,"
he stretches out a hand we fail to shake.
"Grave digger. Factotum extraordinaire.
You've caught me at my passion. I dress up."
And so he does. He has a wild collection.
Old costumes (faux ecclesiastical and others)
hung around his tiny boiler house.
I can't forget the altar overhead.
Approaching something like full consciousness,
surplice and cassock are pulled off -
do they do service as his jim-jams? Now he stows
them, neatly folded, on a ledge.
He growls again. Repeats: "Git Moliere!
But to us he is, will always be,
the Parish Church Corpse Extraordinaire.
We swallow hard and introduce ourselves.
He also has a fine collection of old bones.
He has them in a flour bag, rattles them,
then takes them out and lays them one by one
along the trestle table for our sight.
"All human, boys," he says,
but looking back, I rather think them animal.
"Found whilst digging graves."
He fascinates us both.
We'll seek him out, I'm sure,
all days we can. I'm also sure
that we should not.
We'll keep him to ourselves.
He chats about the graves,
how some are cracked acoss the lids.
On some the lids have moved,
but moved or cracked they stink "the stink of hell".
He has a story for each one,
how each spirit rose
and what the odour signifies.
We'll hear them all, but not today.
Git's a gift - we'll keep him to ourselves.
This concludes my series on The Suburban Village. I have left perhaps my favourite character until last.