Writing in Whangarei

The Ghost at the Old Lychgate, St Mary, Berkhamstead

By Martin Porter

Sometimes, when the rice has not been properly swept from the ruddy path
And the footprints from each wedding guest scar the surface with erratic scuffs,
When the cherry blossom petals, stirred into little eddies, stack like confetti on the grass
You might catch the leaf like rustle of a congregation long gone from the church,
Glimpse the shadow of a rain cloud when there is empty sky, shaped like a young girl in a pleated frock,
Always a bridesmaid…

In the heat of the May morning you can sometimes hear the sighing
Behind the sound of birdsong from the cedar, mixed with the rustling of a thrush
Scrubbing below the border hedge. The words can be just made out
By the more discerning listener, the one who hears the scraping
Of the beetle on the hoggin, or the whisper of a butterfly or moth in nervous flight,
Always a butterfly…

“Never a bride”. The words are uttered in light breathy murmurs
That send ripples through the unmown grass beside the graves,
Bending blades in a melancholy breeze. The shade of oak trees
Leave their cool spots by the porch wall, where the last of the snails shelter from the morning heat.
Sometimes the sounds of marriage can be heard across the glebe land, drifting in the shimmering air,
And the more perceptive watcher, the one who sees the movement of the lichen on the tombstones
May see an apparition stand beside the church gate, drowned out by sunlight, or so the locals say,
Always a bridegroom…

© Martin Porter 2005


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