Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Catholic superstition

There is a window halfway up the staircase of my parents house. There, the glass swirls around itself in a thick and crazy dance. You cannot see out and you cannot see in through it but as a young child when I climbed the stairs, a plaster Sacred Heart reached out wide to me from that windowsill, his heart aflame, ready to embrace. So familiar was he, burning for us all, that I forgot him quite; but one day when I was total grown, I glanced across and noticed that although his heart still flared, the plastered crimson of his cloak and the chestnut of his hair had faded back to white. Undeterred by age though, he reached out still for the souls that climbed the stairs. Then horror, my sightless mother, dusting, knocked him off his perch. His arm fell off, his holy head rolled far and snap - his body broke in two. A second suffering for this ersatz Christ. Guilty catholic woman, tearstreaked at the demise of her companion through 50 and more years, gently placed his body in a box and bag-wrapped it. An Asda shroud. Accomplice father dug a garden hole, said a quiet prayer and buried quick her shame. Now a new, most sacred heart stands sentry on the sill and blesses those who slide by on their aged way up and down the staircase rails. I do not like this newcomer to the family home. I think his cloak too bright, his head too big, his heart too tame a flame contains. While underneath the clay soil where tortuous rose roots grow, the broken saviour burns on and waits for resurrection day. My mother confesses to me later: "I think there may be someone by the bushes too. I can't remember who."


botogol said...

A very clever poem: I like it a lot.

Mr Zip said...

Maybe the old one's not still under the ground. Have you checked to see if anyone's rolled away the stone? And have you tried to touch the new one? See what he says.

Lydia said...

I too remember this statue on the shelf by my mother's bed. All my friends had a similar one in their house, or a picture with a little well of holy water underneath.

Beside the statue of the "Sacred Heart" my mother also had one of the Virgin Mary, though this one was just head and shoulders. The veil was a vivid blue and the eyes were raised dreamily towards heaven.

I found these statues rather unsettling as a child. Especially the "open beating heart" even if the paint was wearing off a bit, rather like your statue.

When my mother died, I had both statues placed in the coffin with her. Seemed right somehow as they had been her little plaster companions for so many years. Catholic guilt eh dontya love it?!

Haven't thought about this for years until I read your blog this morning.

Brilliant writing. Keep it up!

kinglear said...

The question is, do the flowers/bushes grow better since the statue was buried? And does the new one still protect the house?

BJ said...

Hi! I thought you and your readers might be interested in some post-Easter news about Pope Benedict XVI...
The Pope's car is being auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity:
The bidding is already more than $200,000! Personally, I think this is a really fun and creative way to raise
money. The auction goes until April 14th if you and your readers want to check it out.