On Climbing Durham Cathedral Tower
Yes, climb! You’re fit, well shod,
above those many gravestones
for monks who died while fighting, adorned with swords,
and with such life remaining it behooves you now to climb,
to elevate yourself by increments,
each step lifting up your heels,
each step defying still relics below, defying Cuthbert’s feretory
and Bede’s chapel, defying the quiet veneration of heavy stone,
until atop, to see across the palace green,
defying holy undercrofts older than English
and worn deep by creeds, ever crouched between their burdens.
All this way up, all this way here, from Jarrow, Lindisfarne,
but now standing, as boughs overspreading this well of a green world,
and what can lively stones yet build?
Rory Tanner is a general-purpose writer based in eastern Ontario (Canada). He’s published a handful of essays on the poetry and politics of early modern England, and regularly reviews volumes for the Journal of Canadian Poetry. He received a PhD in English Literature from the University of Ottawa a few years ago, but has been working as a technical writer pretty much ever since.