St Mary’s Abbey, West Malling

We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion.
(East Coker, T.S. Eliot)

You wake to hear a chuckling stream
Below a timbered house, and bird song
Through the latticed windows; then cross
The dewy garden to the light-soaked
Silence, where time passes and is still.
The sun, glinting on polished tiles,
Rebounds off a three-handled chalice
And dapples the attendant circle.

Here you will find no false holiness –
The kind that sits around in chapel
Feeling pious, or reaches back
Into the last half-hour to try to
Rescue some residue of meaning –
Missed before, through dreaming of breakfast
Or staring at a postulant;
But here an ordered walking out

To work declares that all is holy
For the holy people of God.
A mind immersed in London keeps on
Flitting, bat-like, to garner future
Moments beneath a leaky roof –
So losing the present through neglect
And taking the shine off time to come,
Like pulling the cherries out of a cake

To render the whole thing tasteless,
Or skimming the back page of a book
And ruining the unfolding story.
But time is treasured here and used well,
In neither hurry nor in idleness;
And so the mind may stop its spinning,
Finding a balance in the stillness
At the heart of the spin, where dwells

A deep pool of silence into which
You can sink, a silence to float in.
And while you rest, you help to make
A ‘point of intersection’ between
This place and the world for which it prays,
Bringing the world of time into
The eternal, bearing the eternal
Back into the troubled world of time.


©Virginia Rounding, 1989

First published in Symphony, 1994, No.3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s