Joy to the World

Midnight Service – All Saints’, Ainslie

The censer swung.
And ageless, placeless things were said and sung
and for an hour I might have been
in any of a thousand transepts or
as many years. An hour that seemed
to hang suspended, still as censers when
processions end.

Then time began
again and I was here. The words that ran
across a choir boy’s T-shirt roared
out mutely “UP the Tigers” through the thin,
white cassock-fabric and the dim
uncertainty of candles. Then restored
to now, I watched the Tigers and the brass,
orbed censer pass.

Then like some brown,
myopic gargoyle misdirected down
from mediaeval guttering
the Canon’s kelpie dawdled down the aisle,
squinted at the candles, scratched awhile,
then, peering briefly at the fluttering
recessional of light, he lurched his way
along the nave

and out to where
the crickets crackled in the dark. Out there
stars stood still and a day waited. Here inside
the censer lead the tigered choir away.
Smoke smudged their going, passing candles swayed
turned and wandered on. Handel’s anthem died.
And in a dust-hole near the door a scarred,
red kelpie stretched and slept beneath the stars


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