Poem: Candlelit Christmas Eve service, St Bridgets at St Brides

December 26th 2023

On our arrival, already dusk; but as in good time,
Before church let’s visit that red-stoned shore
Which sea-nudges the cliffsturdy cottages.

Here’s a greengrowly short chop: foamlively, such zest of kelp!
Over west, we see below the big house’s fanciful battlements
Affluent windowsparkles; but far prettier,
Those Rackhamy wind-stirred woodland silhouettes beyond.

We, early; and just as well, for soon
The pews are filling, all, and then the extra chairs
Until there come to load the choirstalls
Our lass and lad young farmers drustling up the aisle –
Some still vibrating, I’m sure, they are that fresh from the tractor.
Floor mudding and diesely, it is good to have their reminding reality:
Far better the world’s nows for Noel, than cardsweet neverwas nostalgia.

Now, that treat so awaited: dousing of electric light
To leave each pew end Trinity tallow flared.
By the time Samuel adds the final advent flame
Such a heat already, with everyone late in now and thus
Anticipation-glowed cheeks crammed all about, old and young.

So begins the singing: well tuned, stronged by our standing close.
Of course, those ancient words remember themselves
As they do unfailing every year.
And once again, all the usual musical unsurprises:
Men like me having to octave jump mid-verse
For some keys will always defy;
Meanwhile certain ladies, possibly tipple-fired,
Delight us, nudged and winked, with descants true.

As for the readings–
Old-friend familiar in Shakespeare’s English, of course;
Then so lyrical in Welsh,
The Celtic tidings gladsounding almost sung.

Service ended, all blessed; and one last glance
At the special geometry of Bridget’s cross;
Then, the afterwards: spilling into surprisingly dry dark, for
Handshakes and local jokes,
Shared thoughts of those who couldn’t come.

And most of us, I hope,
Think of those aboard that ship we know is out there in the bay:
Now dark-hidden; and had it still been day
She would have been mist-wreathed.
While she safely anchor-rides,
Perhaps her crew would be happier voyaging, entasked –
Rather than engine-idle waiting far from home,
Under perpetual indenture to the price of earth-hurting oil…

Merry Christmas, everyone!

©Christopher Jessop  2023