St. Mary the Virgin, Wissington, Suffolk
If I took you to see the dragon in the church
it would be at the end of summer,
on a day that’s scorched and still,
when the Stour flows heavy as molten lead.
We’ll pass nonplussed cows, clamber over
stiles, balance on narrow bridges.
Stubble will claw our ankles and midges
will tapestry the rippling air.
There’ll be no need for talk; half-bewitched,
we’ll follow the trail of a half-forgotten tale
till we spy the round tower nesting in the trees.
Pushing the heavy doors, you’ll see it at once:
vivid against the pallid walls, its head looking back,
as though in defiance at some foolhardy knight,
its tail ending with a flourish. You’ll think
of the restorers – how their fingers must have burned
as layers of whitewash and Puritan shame
were stripped away till the dragon reared up –
still smouldering – the colour of
baked earth, dried blood, passion.
Leaving you to marvel, I’ll watch dust dance
in shafts of jewelled light, imagine they’re
all the prayers this church has ever heard.
A longing will be kindled and my own prayer
will rise like smoke: Please let me feel your breath,
fierce on my face once more. Burn for me.
Let me lie beneath you, glittering.
Let me be your treasure, jealously guarded.