The Confessor’s Breath

Among the holy and royal ghosts still haunting

the chapels and passageways of Westminster Abbey

stirs the spirit of Edward the Confessor,

seventh son of the Unready, successor

to the Danes, precursor to the Normans,

a saint English, Roman, and Orthodox, hardly

a perfect man, but a capable and celibate king

who trusted that God would choose the next monarch

since he couldn’t be bothered with producing heirs.

With him the House of Wessex revived and expired.


Signs in the abbey describe his shrine as delicate–

something the man was not; accounts describe

His Majesty as tall and blond and dignified,

the epitome, in fact, of ideal ruler–

forbidden to the tourist hordes, open only

for private prayer, by whom unspecified.


And perhaps the restricted access contributes

to the shrine’s mysterious pull, or maybe

the attraction comes by way of age,

from cold stone hewn in Anglo-Saxon times

scarcely imaginable in 2018,

or maybe it’s only because the abbey itself

rose from Edward’s Norman-Romanesque dreams,

or because his tomb was opened at least twice,

allowing ectoplasm to enter the air,

wafting about the soaring nave, still echoing

with the chants and hymns of monks and choristers

from stacked centuries come and gone.


But in any case one feels something,

whether true believer or doubting Thomas,

whether it’s the lingering breath of St. Edward,

or only of so many ordinary passers-through.


Copyright 2018

T. Allen Culpepper


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