RIP Fr Charles Owen
My uncle was buried today in Kent, 21 April my mother’s birthday
Rosemary Breen kindly read out this shortened version of a poem I sent him.
This morning the kookaburras were raucous, your totem,
your special animal with the hysterical laughter.
I’m watching two Little Wattlebirds dance through
the Honey Grevillias and some roos, three lying down,
two young males boxing. Thunder has left the air humid.
You are lying in a hospital bed. It’s night and cold outside.
I hear Dreamland is struggling, the ghost train quiet
though I’ve wanted to visit since learning that Turner
claimed the town has the finest skies in all of Europe.
You are being moved to a hospice, yet two weeks ago
walked ‘John’s walk’ as you call it, past the Domesday forest
where poachers once prowled and an oak pins the corner,
a huge girthed beast (rooted before Captain Cook sailed past
our window), along the playing fields and through a wall of irises
nesting litter, dragonflies and Great Crested Newts, back
on muddy tracks through the wood breeding Magpies to mum’s.
You pushed a return to the gospels and a simple goodness
that can spring from clay. The children will miss your ministry
your irreverence and humour as will all those you helped
with funereal grief or the agitated optimism of weddings
and baptisms, and we will, from the far side of the planet.
I wish I could parachute down and take you somewhere sunny,
some historic town with hymns escaping the old stone chapels
so that the sacred spreads through the streets and over the walls
into the fields and woods below the musical mountains you loved,
Bruckner and Mahler – a final pilgrimage. Remember Trier, 2007?
We fill water bottles from a spring and take a path red roses mark,
skirting the road and Roman amphitheatre. Black parasols on slender stems
cluster tangible delicacy beneath swaying pines, tips almost touching.
A youthful fox, flushed red, steps out and strolls down the track
ahead of us, picks up our scent and bounds away into shadow.
from, Außerordentlich: Trier diary, for Uncle Charles, September 2007
Note: Dreamland is in Margate where Fr Charles was in hospital.