In the Shrine of Margaret Clitherow – a poem by Helen Jones

In the Shrine of Margaret Clitherow


Outside there was always blood,
Black jewels shackled to the stalls,
Flies hovered drunk
On the decaying flesh and cleavers
Swooped like falcons,
Flashing in the sun.
She grew in blood,
Bore children to the stink of it,
She knew bone shatters and the soft flesh breaks,
Saw the thin line between life and death,
Made friends with it.

The blood river bore her to an older faith.
She rode it lightly,
Walking from guest to guest,
Greeting her neighbours,
A mock to those who seek them, and she smiles,
Always seeing blood in the corner of her eye.

Taken she will not plead
For no offence, dismisses evidence they got
Between an apple and a stick,
No drooping head, no penitential pleas,
Looks in their eyes and they
Like gasping hounds scent quarry, smell the blood.

Prison confines her body, frees her soul.
She rocks the child within her womb, 
Making her shroud,
Each stitch a step upon the road to death,
Fashions a shift just like an eager bride,
And hurries, seeing a familiar friend,
Eager for Lady Day.

The feast is Crucifixion Day that year,
No shift allowed; defiance must be shamed.
Frightened by certainty, they strip her bare,
But cannot kill.
Hired beggars place the stones under her back,
 A dull domestic door to bring on death.
Pile on the weights,
Bones snap,
Lungs fail.
Blood flowing on the cobbles 
Wipes out their names,
Carries hers down the years.

Helen Jones gained a degree in English, many years ago from University College London and later an M.Ed. from the University of Liverpool. She is now happily retired and spends a lot of her time writing and making a new garden. 

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