The Gave in riverine rush –
like a long scroll unrolling
its crinkled glyphs
between the banks,
a sound too as of footfalls
like Bernadette’s in running
over stone and thicket, twig
and pebble, clogs crunching gravel,
with the Reply.

The sun rays the stream,
scribes its rippled notes
upon the water’s lines –
octaves and quavers
tie in clefs
the beer can tottering
from a drunken hand,
drown the echoes
of carried sin.

A rosary-string of lights
rises up the hill.
The Castle Fort knots it,
awakens the Pyreness that lay
rolling in sleep
beneath a cloud.
The high-flying banner
with colour affirms
the Lourdes message.

In Massabielle, that chosen rock –
eternity seems cloistered there.
The bush and rose
still keep guard
around the niche where She appeared,
drop a petal on its lintel
raise and firs like temple fleches,
and in the grotto, the ribbon waters
are of the first Garden.

The sick could not be
ailing here – wheelchairs roll
like tamed chariots, hooded
stretchers with a blue of sky.
A child’s arm
is like a wishbone bent, upon a push-pram
his smile in spastic permanence,
his eyes with fixity
on the Grotto.

I drank the cleansing cold
of that water, in handcupfuls
down to my feet I felt it – a ribbon
stream, in straight descent.
The Church’s Head had drunk a whole
glassful – a bold display in tourist brochures
removed my fear of lurking rodlike germs.
So I made the last dash, for the taps
in obedience to the words ‘Drink and Wash.’
The tree was a green Heaven above.

                                          RAJANDAYE RAMKISSOON-CHEN.

(published in Christian Order, December, 1992)