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This article is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Blind Girl at a Service Jack Clemo
So the footsteps I’ve just heard
Were those of nuns, two nuns walking
Down the aisle of this Wesleyan chapel,
Their robes flicking stiff boots;
And the heavier tread, quick and firm on the matting,
Was that of the sister who carried a big cross.
I can fancy her soft warm hands
Tight on the barren wood or metal.

I wonder what they meant, bringing that here
To a blind person’s service. Are we supposed
To feel solemn about a bit of mist,
Or sparks or funny black bubbles
Caused by measles or a car skid
Or something in the family? She understands
Better than that, I hope: her own clear
Eyes show the only crucifixion
That’s being borne in this assembly.

Before a cross can gall
The eyes must see the charms that are renounced,
And the magnet of suffering, at faith’s roots,
Must impress the vivid sense, call through, compete
Till the coloured feasts pall and the vow is spoken.

These nuns must have seen a convent gate,
A coif-sealed face looking placid,
Or pictures, statues of saints and the Virgin.
Their fingers, unguided by sight,
Would have missed the crucifix;
Blocked sense would have denied them their vocation.

As for us sightless – we’re free
To riot (if we’re that sort) in the carnal dream,
Fan passion’s flicker, with no iron ...


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