William Barnes walks his Parish

At times he disturbed the grass on their tumuli
as he collected his parishioners' tithes and vowels.

He knew that under his feet
was a strange music of bone
which was echoed under every thatch in his parish.
And their blood which cried to him
more insistently than Abel's
was warmed still at each hearth as he looked by,
although theirs left no more than a stain
in the soft chalk,
if at all.

From Maumbury Ring to Herringston Barrow
the mute ancestors lay tracing destinies
in the palm of their bony hands as he walked by.
They listened to their children
as he recited their stories into a poem,
suggested improvements,
offered him a strange harvest of songs.

Andrew Hawthorne

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