Concerning the Remote Churchyard



Does a mountain begin or end 

where it touches the sky?


Can the kite leave ripples when it flies,

like a lazy hand stroking water?


Do the spirits of lost lovers

meet under the yew trees?


Did the land tremble and bleed

when cut for the first time?


Could it feel the placing of stone, 

on stone, on stone?


Did it hear the voices of the masons

laugh and swear through another day?




The land holds stories,

that it keeps to itself.




So too, inside the church,

are secrets untold

of prayers and promises.


Here the faithful met the faithless,

ordering their world in ritual,

fearing the consequences.


They worked the land with songs,

sung in an ancient language


Others gave orders, briskly spoken,

in the language of another.


They planted the hedgerows 

with knowledge of possession.

Here is mine, there is yours.


They made order out of hillside.

They tidied streams. 

Their livestock nodded.


Nature nodded back

with an arsenal of 

storm, snowdrifts, and draught.

Nature’s trump cards.




A few memories, in stone,

for souls departed from bodies 

whose wealth

secured an indoor spot.


18c. Christopher wanted 

either his own grave 

or to be near Blanch


His half blank stone

waits and weeps for her.




Outside are markers 

of ends and beginnings.


To the North, upright shiny sentinels,

tended for the remembered.


The much loved and sorely missed,

the born sleeping 

and the taken too soon.


To the East and South tipsy stones

for the forgotten and unreachable.


Ivy-clad and lichen-kissed, 

overcome with May’s abundance

and ivy’s ambition.




And where lie the masons,

the goodwives,

the hedge layer and the priest?


Too deep, too forgotten,

but present because 

the question is asked.


All laid out here (stone or not)

to face the East

and their judgement day.


Here lies a wife beater.

Here lies a brave woman.

Here lies a drunk.

Here lies a hero.




At the end, 

did their souls fly up 

to where the Skirrid 

touches the sky?


Did they pass the kites, 

on their way?


Did they wave a last goodbye,

rippling the air

like a hand stroking water?


Did they remember being 

young lovers, under the Yew trees?


© Gaynor Kavanagh