Cirencester Scene August 2017

The Imagined Abbey – One of the Abbey 900 Series – by Iris Anne Lewis


Canons, cowled in black,
process down the dorter stairs
for nine psalms and lessons.

The crescent moon is waning,
stars gutter like anaemic flame
that soon will be snuffed out.

Only the morning star
is unwavering, steadfast
in its promise of impending dawn.


In the shadowed Lady Chapel
beeswax candles burn
around the Blessed Virgin.
She is luminous with grace.

The cantor tastes the honeyed smoke,
transmutes its sweetness into song.


Abbot, clerics, laity, townsfolk
crowd the abbey church,
face the Eastern window
as day breaks dark to dusk.

Dormant in the glass,
the tree of Jesse,
tenebrous as forest pines
in winter.
Beneath its branches,
hidden figures lurk.

The sky blossoms into rose.
The window blazes into life.
Jesse’s tree grows green, fresh
as apple orchards in the spring.
Translucent saints in red, purple,
royal blue, give benediction.

At the apex,
in amber gold and white,
the Risen Christ
in numinous simplicity
of light.

This poem was first published in ‘Ground’