Easter Sunday, 2020

Poetry by Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams


The doors being shut

The moon’s soft gong
has sounded somewhere, dawn
air padding at it, and the dense
flurry rises, prickles and liquid,
chit and purr, and the breath
of soil, grass, blossom, the dressing
gown, drapery not yet burned
off by hardworking heat.

Walk into it, the cloud
discovered only in this
cold space, walking a tall
man’s length from the next
riser from sleep. This is
the cloud in which stones
grind fast, spark, and the first
fire jumps out above the sun.

Noli me tangere

I could have said, Don’t touch
me; never mind the doctrine
mandating your distance, why
should you have the right
to probe and roam wincing skin,
browsing to find the little
doorways into familiar pains?
I don’t want what I know,

I don’t want thick air,
the breathless damp neighbourhood
of voices and beating words,
the cloud swaddling and rubbing
with old practised polishing
weeps of a working thumb. A tall
man’s length from me, do you know
how I want that?

Heart burn

Standing here, weather
moves through us, drifts
like microbes or like neutrons
falling, clouds of prickling
song or picking nails. A tall
man’s length away, unmoving,
is the visitor, whether in touch
or not I can’t decide.

The moon, rinsed to a shred,
dissolves. Clouds are sucked
upwards. Light turns raw,
earth dries out. So what am I
hungry for, the globe of shining
distance, for the palm
of breath and liquid sound against
the face, for the thin, thin

Unseeable gap between breath
and breath, opening and clenching,
where it burns so hard, so
quick you don’t know hot
from cold or now from then
or I and it, the needle point
where the gong starts to blossom
and the air quivers with wounds and difference?



This poem is taken from the May/June 2020 issue of Standpoint. To subscribe to the print and digital editions, including a full digital archive, click here.

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