The pilgrims wandering in the curio shops

Gingerly touch Victorian artifacts -

The wrack of wash-stands mixed with servants’ silver;

But buy their burnished postcards by the steps

That take them down and out before the sacked

Shrine and the long road that leads back to Calvary.


Some in hired cars, some in buses, some

Barefoot and burdened by outrageous crosses,

From which the eye, affrighted, turns to prize

A History of the Church in China; and in the shame

Of doing nothing to preserve the Masses

Said to save the soft-shod, perhaps one prays.


‘Our Lady of the rapid transit, please

Winkle a servant from the prayer books printed

At prices to suit every purse, and from

The proud derision at the pious ways

In which the plastic rosary-beads are minted,

And to the wash-stand bring your servant home.’


From recollected cafés comes the murmur,

Like what five hundred years ago received

The palmer at the threshold, when the priests

At Compline sang: ‘Salve Regina,’ and armour

Clattered, as knights knelt and kings craved

Pity. For shrines, crowns, teapots, shatter - but prayer lasts.