Cleanliness is next to godlessness

These serpents’ venom

Upon me freely
you did tread,
you, serpents
among the dead
footless weighed
with victims swallowed
godless preyed
on all things hallowed
handless flows
no blood to stain
crushed the distance
lush the pain
hearts arrested
slashed be brains.
Who from these isles
with fists and feet
these serpents’ venom
from old and young
drive hither all
to kingdom come?
Who in these hours
fateful take
the staff and rod
we humans make
to banish vicious
evil sterile
and nurture tend’rest
love so fertile.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..