Charlotte Elizabeth Digby (1778-1820)

Charlotte your gaze
saddens me as always
here at the cathedral’s end
forever looking toward
an empty space
bounded by that fluted column
rising to support
the arc above it
circumference of your world
barrier to a beyond
you will never see
yet one that needs so badly
the prayers it will never hear

And yet Charlotte
I draw consolation
from the composure of your hands
folded on your lap
so lacking in complaint
those tranquil fingers
it occurs to me
limning a compliant mind

Somehow you hear
I am sure
the bell tolling midnight
the deacon intoning
the noonday prayer
see the woman who comes
with spray and plastic watercan
to freshen the floral pyramid
beside Our Lady’s altar

But the hours pass
the hours pass
and perhaps to might slightest disappointment
you haven’t once shown
the least curiosity
in me scribbling beside you

Content to wait my pride suggests
until this poem is complete and maybe
I have the courage to read it to you