The National Catholic Review
Michael Brett

This is where the Old World ends,
Old Europe dreaming in lost coins of Latin
Scattered on the sea floor. I can see it
Through the doorless doorway, ruined,
Or the space where it should be, below the shoreline
Where the old road goes to drown its head
Below the surf in fleeces. There the cathedral nests
Among tibia and ribs, among the bladder wrack.
Its towers dolphins, its choirs drowned
Where the senile sea addresses itself in rumours.

I have seen it in a diver’s face mask, trembling
With dim fanfares of shoals and tumbling walls.
There mosaic Christ kosmokrator has his finger
And Bible raised towards the muffled, inverted din
Of fishing boats.

Somewhere in the mind, the cathedral bells still beat
Submerged in caverns. Their tongues are bone. In stone,
An armoured head peers through sandy layers, extinctions,
deaths
That lead like ladders to the present.

My great-grandfather knew this place and cycled here,
Filled with the certainties of factories each one stamped
With Queen Victoria’s face and an empire
Whose milestones were chimneys. Now
There is no withdrawing Arnoldean roar but a simple sense
Of plodding on between the breakwaters
And the wrecks, torpedoed, weeping rust,
On little pathways between magnificence and folly.

Michael Brett, a Catholic poet based in London, serves as head of English at Homefield School in Surrey.

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