Most pictures and words from Anthony C Murphy

Saturday, 22 December 2012


It was the night before Christmas
But only by minutes
Under the snow dusted dome of St. John’s
A congregation of celebrants
Some had started early
Not wanting to be late
Or come undone

Out of the slowed night
They padded and fluffed
Into the church
All a flicker
All golden and red rich
With sanctuary

Fat Father Unsworth
Huffed into his robes
Patent leather shoes
Unseen these years of his puff
When standing in his finery
Invisible eyes lost cheekily
Oblivious to the vestments and the routine
Assisted by little Sean Reilly
Scrubbed and squeaky in a surplice

Cassock, stole, alb and chasuble
A drapery green and gold
A pig stuck in a seasonal tree
But pumped up with pomp
Fat Father Unsworth had gravitas
That belied his apparent immobility
When it came to Mass
He floated

The drunks at the back
Plastered the brickwork
Those in the pews
Closed their eyes
And took advantage
The heavenly choir above
Boosted by Mrs. Kelly’s sibilance
Hissed out hymns to the tired
The merry
The downright pissed

And in came Father Unsworth
Little Sean Reilly
The altar boy behind him
Everyone stood
And words were said
And someone snored
Sacrament was dished out
Duty was done
The ponderous affectation of the priest had been suffered
For another year some torture
For a while some guilt had been bought and sold

And so to home through the white soft streets
Humming their lullabies

Little Sean Reilly would stay a while yet
Help to divest the swollen body of the priest
As it sipped at something stronger than altar wine
Then clean the accoutrements
And back to the chapel
Snuffing out candles and
Have a dip in the molten wax
The pleasure of peeling at fingerprint moulds

There and then from high in the still church
Came a lonely cough
That turned Sean cold
Someone not gone

The echo fades
Sean’s ears
Deaf to the quiet now
His heart as a trapped rabbit
Though his blood pumped true
And his legs moved him on in his duty
The dossers must be cleared from the pews

But waiting for little Sean Reilly
In the balcony
White faced and prone
Masochistic on wood
Hugged into a coat full of holes
Was the shade of a man
Once known

Away from the safety of the vestibule
As fat Fr. Unsworth snorted his whiskey
To the gods
Sean went
Up under the Byzantine mosaic
Beneath the dead eyes of Jesus
To creak on the open minded stairs
For to do his duty
The scared child ascended
Wholly righteous
Towards feathered authority
To confront this shade
In his makeshift nest
Although thirteen years old
And still wearing his dress

The snow drifted like a crowd
Camped out on the doorstep
Sean had only his light

Who is there

The shadow had words

Come near
I need you

Sean did his best
The boy scout
Went to the man
Looked into eyes
Like fires in windows frosted

And Sean saw his father
And the mess
Shot through with politics
Killed by religion
And as he lay bleeding
He gave of his blood
A bloody lie and a gun
The Brits had got him
Right in the gut
Take this to O’Leary’s
They’ll look after you
Revenge us he said
And then he was dead
Wrapped up and done like Christmas

So Sean shot the priest in his arse cheeks before running
Put some holes in his chasuble too
Stole a chalice, a monstrance, the offertory box
And never did say god bless you

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