I sat beside her for an hour or more –
there in the recess of the empty church.
Outside it was almost winter
and the branches of a stricken tree
tapped and scraped against the coloured glass.
Six centuries she’d laid there, carved from stone,
her eyes fixed on the rafters and her coif
draped snugly all around her head.
Six centuries of leaf-fall, sunlight, snow,
the incremental shadows every night
as they inched across the damp-flagged floor;
the sound of evensong and psalms.
Six centuries of peace and distant wars.
I brushed a cobweb from her face
and lit a candle at her pointed feet.
If I believed I would have knelt and prayed.
No one could tell me who she was or why
she held her own heart in between her palms.
Ian Parks is the author of eight collections of poems, one of which was a Poetry Book Society Choice. His versions of the modern Greek poet Constantine Cavafy were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award. His Selected Poems of Harold Massingham is due from Calder Valley Poetry.