Spirits of Chester Cathedral

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.

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