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York in Poetry: Shaping the Mystery

Posted on 25 November 2012 | Poem, Audio

York Mystery Play Dress Rehearsal, 10th July 2010

A Roman heat and the sound of hammers
sealing the compact between nails and wood.
Now even the dust is different,
but we still put our backs against the round,
turning to a time when doctrine was given
and faith came from pictures.
Our God is a Yorkshire architect
(the sort you can see loves his work)
and Gabriel makes Mary drop her broom.
Marvels are made from sticks and sheets:
Canes change from canopy to pyre,
a blanket is both marriage bed and child.
Interval. A painted cat appears on a painted villa roof
And the seven Sons of Man gather for a photograph.
Language uncurls and settles. Judas and Peter share cake.
We indulge Pilate; he has overindulged
And does not trust the steps or his own legs.
In her private chamber, his wife cries out.
She does not trust her mind.
Strains of Cabaret violin, and strained mothers
make a pale doll stand on its feet
to hear King Herod’s proclamation.
It cannot understand. It falls.
A scream is the same anywhere,
and the miracle, this working show –
for whatever the time
Cain still kills his brother
And from a beam
a man is lifted down in a sling.

- Tanya Nightingale