for the Day 24th
1838: the National Gallery in Londons Trafalgar Square opens to
Martins is the church of St Martin in the Fields, on
the east side of Trafalgar Square. The paintings referred to are Paolo
della Francescas Baptism of Christ and Cézannes
the National Steps
At every stroke the bells
of Martins ring
the blue-grey plaza of the evening air
is crossed and recrossed by the birds that turn
in shrieking, flowing coils. The night at hand
impels them; to protest or take its part,
they crowd against the failing of the light.
From breathing fictive space
and painted air
our feet move weighted and our heads are light,
as though by one yet greater master hand
compelled to stand still at the stair’s top turn,
and watch as round the column, whirling ring
on ring, the waves of starlings crash and part.
Each of its galaxy a millionth
each star there flickers darkly on the turn;
whose little-finger-knuckle brain, and ring-
bound staring eye, steer a body so light
its weight would barely register in hand,
the bones and plumage reinforced with air.
Weve seen him within
who came to set light
to the hard earth, wading the stream, the ring
of eternity glimmering in air
unseen, it seems, by all but one, whose part
shall be to make a way and die, to turn
and pour the water from his raised right hand.
Weve seen the players
too who wait their turn,
each like a Bible studying his hand,
that casual group that time will never part
from brush-strokes freely ordered as an air
of Bachs, harmonic summing of the light
that dances round a common pastimes ring.
We leave them with a touch
of hand on hand.
Together we belonged, but when we part
were exiled from the timelessness of light
in a world where Well Ill give you a ring
is all our connection. You, with an air
of loss, watch the crowds into which well turn.
Then turn again and through
the darkened air
let ring the words, strong as your voice is light,
Youre part of me. Id sooner lose this hand.
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