Presbyterian Study

Tom Paulin

A lantern-ceiling and quiet.
I climb here often and stare
At the scoured desk by the window,
The journal’s conscience
And its driven pages.

It is a room without song
That believes in flint, salt,
And new bread rising
Like a people who share
A dream of grace and reason.

A bit starchy perhaps.
A shade chill, like a draper’s shop.
But choosing the free way,
Not the formal,
And warming the walls with its knowing.

Memory is a moist seed
And a praise here, for they live.
Those linen saints, lithe radicals.
In the bottled light
Of this limewashed shrine.

Hardly a schoolroom remembers
Their obstinate rebellion;
Provincial historians
Scratch circles on the sand,
And still, with dingy smiles,

We wait on nature,
Our jackets a dungy pattern
Of mud and snapped leaves,
Our state a corpse, wrapped
In the flag, committed to the deep.