Robert Selby - Portrait
Robert Selby
Dear Ralph Crozier
This poem appeared in the anthology
Days of Roses II (2013)

The Weald below was white as a burial shroud.
I waited for my taxi to fight its way off,
then opened the pre-Reformation oak door.

The hush within almost matched the one without.
Two hundred mourners, and none looked around:
they were nearly all your flock, Ralph.

The vicar signed your eulogy with the arms
of a railing minister, but the countenance
of a calm faith. Hands spoke silent psalms.

Under the vaults, my mind was a shedding bough,
lightening at the fall of each good word,
interpreted from the transept. Sorry Ralph:

conscious of others with hearing, I only
mumbled the Lord's Prayer, but we were friends
because my life so differed from yours,

mention of which over chess was strictly
verboten, till brandy loosened your tongue
and you'd say how you'd only just begun.

Under the vaults, hemmed tight, in winter wear,
I smiled at an old expression of yours:
Hot as a blackbird nesting in a traffic light.

Relief: you were borne down the shining nave
into snow-light, a silence we broke
with our heels on the gritted steps.

Ralph, the diminuendo of startled birds
recalled our walks on clear days, while you
still could, in the grounds of your life's work.