Poems by
Rob Knee


Pursuit

- Margaret Paston praying in St Peter, Hungate, to her husband.

First light.

I kneel before St Peter's shrine,

the Hungate church, a tomb for petrified air.

No longer wishing into the darkness

for the deliverance of my prayers, my heart

has become quarry,

as an east wind wheedles between the panes

to seize my ears

with the sounds of hounds.

The Bishop's pack has woken.

Fear rolls up the cobbled hill.

I catch a fleeting vision of an unyielding Elm

dividing this surging tide

and then here, upon the threshold,

sharp, insistent, caught,

pressing for the limits of my resolve.

Each bark seems surrogate;

a chorus of hate from our enemies,

each salivating jowl a petition of envy,

as we, friendless, are kept at bay.

I quarter my heart for hope,

some scent of courage,

some fragrant that i can take from this sanctuary,

to carry with me, to banner

above our gates.

For it was written,

that I had to face the

unleashing

alone.

(Note: the adjoining Princes Street to St Peter Hungate was once known as Hundegatte, where the Bishop kept his hounds).

 

Margaret's Memory

- on the risk of fire in Norwich (which came to pass when the Pastons' home on Elm Hill burned down in 1507).

In these close, kindling streets,

The lick of fire is ever present.

The city, so often a quench upon the thirst of flame,

Setting the sparks on a merry dance

From wattle to daub, thatch to timber,

Often pursued by snakes of desperate men

In bucket line from the Wensum.

Our river, which slides between the wharves

In seemingly indifference,

Even allowing our precious ships

To burn upon their staithes.

All that men build is, in turn, consumed,

And from the exhausted citizens of the soot

Comes a sullen, stared and silent dawn requiem

Before the charred pyres of possession.

This homage is closely followed by a further inspection,

Or else, with the wind's connivance,

Will come a flare-up of such further consumption

That befits an age of plague.

The fire troubled us - Paston properties have perished,

Our income shrivelling in the sinking, simmering holds

Of worsted cloth and abandoned writs.

I came to Norwich to escape the mob,

Yet the city was not always sanctuary,

The coast house, at least, denied the fires

And husband, kept our letters safe.