My first visit I barely made acquaintance,
dragged along by a medic and musician boyfriend
in the hot summer of ’76;
while he discussed diapasons in the organ loft
I drooped around the pillars,
glad of somewhere cool.
My next encounter, more than ten years later,
I was ‘depping’ for a friend who sang.
Late November; I parked in Smithfield
and counted down the minutes to rehearsal.
Then I stepped into caressing darkness
and fell in love with mystery and shadow.
So began the years of Sunday evenings,
rarely unaccompanied by apprehension:
How many sopranos will there be tonight?
Can I cope? Will the final sung Amen collapse?
The organist be charming, irascible, or both?
For three months once I left,
but a longing pulled me back.
I meant to leave entirely when I gave up singing
but somehow never did,
that unpredictable organist, by sudden dying,
recalling and reminding me that love of place
can be as strong as love of persons,
make similar demands. I’m held now
in a firm and mutual embrace.
©Virginia Rounding, 1996
[First published in Awaiting an Epiphany]