The Belltower Blues / Jesse K. Butler
“A serious house on serious earth it is” – Philip Larkin
Back when I told you that I had a key
that could unlock that strange old creaky door
inside the vestment closet, where we’d find
a ladder and a hidden passageway
above the nave, and, where the passage ends,
the trapdoor to the belltower – we both knew
we’d grab some whiskey one night and go see.
That’s how it is, sometimes, with such old friends.
The tower overlooks decaying rentals,
all being fast replaced by slim new-builds
in corrugated steel. That church still stands,
through all the frantic change outside its door:
so big, so needlessly ornate, and yet
unfinished – there’s a gap where bells should be,
the metal redirected to the war.
It seems we’re not immune to history.
We sat up there and laughed and swigged the bottle.
Night deepened, and we gradually became
part of the roofline, forged out of its frame.
The church stood tall, a grand anachronism,
bestowing on the minds of all who passed
its seriousness – though from that queasy height
I’d more incline to call it gravity.
No matter: We were there, and it seemed right.
Some morning, when developers come through
to clear that lot and build redundant condos,
they will not understand what they destroy.
That drafty holy space where many knew
their lives to focus in a vital moment.
That windy ledge, where we once sat like gargoyles,
our tear ducts streaming rain, our faces bent
so brightly in anachronistic joy.
Jesse K. Butler lives with his wife and two children in Ottawa, Ontario. He recently completed a PhD in Education, which led to his current work in the Canadian civil service. His eclectic education has also included an MA in English Language and Literature and a BA in Liberal Arts. His lifelong exploration of poetic form is grounded in his experience of the life of faith: a guiding structure that opens up new possibilities for freedom.
The Belltower Blues: Copyright 2021 by Jesse K. Butler. All rights reserved.