Illuminating York Poetry: Barley Hall

Posted on 17 January 2013 | Poem

The beams above, like burnt cinder

toffee, trace the way along stone floor.

We are not alone in this townhouse

which echoes the priory not far from home.

In the dark we turn down hollow steps

where maids made meals below. We learn

of famous stars who were draped in gowns,

now displayed against the flicker of fire,

and unfurl the lace in our fingers

in the dim light.
- Vicki Bartram

Crowds pack the tiny rooms,

jam the stairs, push past

to see costumes worn on TV:

Downton Abbey displayed

“like it used to be.”

A few of us linger, thinking

how life would actually have been:

shadows watching from corners,

spiders on rafters, dirt on clothes.

Eating and serving

would be as much by feel as sight.

Uneven boards would trip,

winter persuade to early beds.

Studying by rush light

would tire the youngest eyes.

With horn instead of glass

even daylight would be opaque…

A camera flashes, dazzling the room.
- Pauline Kir