by Chris Atack
1: Organ Recital Austere, upright In solemn darkened rows, The empty chairs await, indifferent, The faithful or the idle, or the dead. Who knows what midnight rites The chairs attend? What congregations gather To hear the exhortations of the deathless wind. Crusaders and their ladies, cavaliers The worshippers of eight hundred years Now on a rainy Friday, There are just three: Myself, an ancient lady and a windblown man Gathered for the advertised recital We hunch, alone and lonely Among the straight-back chairs. And then the music breaks and bursts, Bubbling up through sleeping air The vast cathedral stirs and yawns And still the flashing music pours Note after streaming note Into the stony gloom Quickening the void of time and shadow Spirit moving upon the face Of this fading afternoon. 2: The Battle Chapel The battle banners, threadbare guards Stand watch over soldiers’ tombs Cathedral silence reigns, no bugle calls No cannon booms. The struggle and its outcome fades At end of splendid victory balls Bones and tattered cloth remain. Shadows seep like blood Across the dusty floor. Its altar in the house of God Confirms the sanctity of war Each soldier underneath the flags Silently affirms We win all battles but the last. We have no choice but faith. Death does not offer terms. 3: The Locked Gate Up the hill from the car park Drowses the house of God A supplication in soaring stone Repository of moldering flags and bones, Home of holy shadows Strange as eight hundred years. Inside a lone voice soars in song Urging The Holy Mysteries to abide “Door locked at six,” (The sign explains) And I am locked outside.
Chris Atack is a science writer by trade. He has published two near-future SF novels (Project Maldon and Hunger Star) as well as assorted short stories and poems. When not hammering out words, he sails, canoes, tries to improve his French, does search and rescue with the Quebec Coast Guard Auxiliary and generally enjoys life with his wife, kids and friends.