Most pictures and words from Anthony C Murphy

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


If you come into town by train
The dome of St. John’s Catholic Church
Is the first thing that you notice
The huge silver blue curves sit
A little incongruous on top of
The right-angled redbrick structure
That nestles the monster
It has always looked
An occidental accident
A mosque in a mask
To those who knew the pre-Pakistan
Days of Tweedale Street
When they remembered
The Paddies raising their buildings
Not just drinking curry
These towns have always needed
The onslaught of labour
A too hotbed of industry
That went global before you were born
Ghandi’s white dhoti was made in Blackburn
Now Dutch soccer balls
Are stitched in India
But blown up in Oldham

Go through St. John’s wood-heavy double doors into
Byzantine pretension and Victorian sheen
A brilliant mosaic dizzies the mind like optical frankincense
Covering one half of the interior of the dome
Above the altar
Is a scene from the apocalypse
The four Evangelists loom in gold leaf
With a dangling lamb like an offering
The human
The lion
The ox then
The eagle
All winged
And barefoot
Two-dimensional giants
Who have outgrown their tetramorph
Dead eyes ignore the congregation
Unconcerned with little people beneath
Apostling homage
To the Pantokrator
At last seated on his throne

Christ too is passive
And a little Eastern of aspect
And very foreign to an English child
Of six in 1977
The boy sits in his pew and is entranced
To him at this time
As holy as the dome itself
And with just as many evil thoughts
In his golden head
They are Harryhausen creations
That could turn their creaking necks
And stare directly into the soul
At any unwatched moment
But then Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger
Is playing at the ABC in town
And for some reason
It is the saints’
Naked floating feet
That frighten him the most 

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