Withig ford: the ford by the willows
The echo in the valley
pads behind me, stopping when I do,
urging on when I do.
It follows lightly like a listener
Into the rings of cropmarks bounding the walls
of the invisible village, its barns and sheds,
Its manor and mill and market strewn with straw
all panning out under the undulations of field,
their hazy shapes white bones under the limbs of hills
with nothing now standing but this,
the chapel, wrapped in honey walls,
the stolen tesserae of the Roman bathhouse
sealed in a secret underlayer,
and the Three Dead and the Three Living,
dancing still inside, hand in hand,
in colours of clay and baked earth.
Sitting against its wall, heated by summer sun,
it is the warm skin of the city’s last creature,
its steady pulse against mine,
its sanctum glimpsed through diamonds of light.
It is a still centre of survival, when plague
gutted its pews of prayer, it’s doors
barred today against a new pestilence.
The echo has halted her steps beside me,
and we are side by side in the emptied ford
as time unburies, casts its twilight across the land.
St. Oswalds Church, Widford