Before he lost his head, he thought
he’d seen it all, disease and poverty,
harsh disputes, over land and power,
yet still, he’s ill prepared for this.
Asceticism has its benefits, he has no
urge to stockpile but notes restraint
has lost all value. Despite the arrows,
people choose to double back, returning
for lemons, an extra pack of butter.
It’s not just the lack of order and scrabble
for toilet rolls, the astonishing dearth
of altruism, that leaves him thinking,
‘A centurion would do this better,’
it’s the paucity of hope and purpose.
The memory of his execution’s patchy,
he recalls the crowds, his sudden thirst,
the way the river dried to let him pass,
the hush that followed. But Bede claims
the place was ’enamelled’ with flowers.
He loves that thought. Wishes to strew
campanula in the cold meat section,
scatter phlox amongst the frozen peas.
And how cheery if we’re short on eggs,
to offer poached egg plants instead?
Behind him someone stifles a cough.
He gave his life to save the old priest
but they found and slew him anyway.
A lesson learnt, he delves into his robe’s
dense folds, retrieves a phial of hand gel,
cool and soothing as a holy relic.