Poem: A baptism

Brompton Oratory, a hot lunch-time in July,

a baby being received into the Catholic Church

and Catholic upper-crust society;

dressed-up, a group stands round the font.

Otherwise the building’s almost empty, save a

scattering of oddballs dotted round the nave,

the occasional stray tourist fleeing from the sun.

 

A little girl in blue and white-striped dress

escapes the cluster of family and friends.

She patters down the aisle towards the wardrobe-like

confessionals – archaic Wendy-houses –

which lure her to explore their dark insides;

drunk with happiness, she crawls along a pew;

ecstatic – the Oratory one unimagined playground.

 

Behind her plods the solemn uncle.

Determined not to make a sideshow of himself,

he doesn’t chase – but holds himself on guard

till the moment she stands still. She totters,

absorbing wonder, dizzies herself with space…

He scoops her up, bears her back towards propriety –

the serious expectations of family and Church.

 

Virginia Rounding

 

[Published in Ironing the hankies: a selection of 20 poems, Pikestaff Press, 1999]