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.