St.Laurence Gate

Cloaked in the mystic habit
Of green netting over scaffolding
Strange sounds of hissing water sprays
Of chipping, scraping
Of old mortar being renewed
The mighty barbican
Monstrous namesake
Of the barbecued saint
Hides his shame
Enduring new tortures

The slow striptease
Slowly, by day by week
Lower and lower
The cloak slips
From turrets and arrow slits
Grey stone below grey stone
The twin-towered hero
Naked and proud
Glistening in the sun

Neatly ragged dentures
Bite at the sky
Gnaw at the clouds
Claw at the stars
As they once did
When threats to the town were more violent
Warning that this well-walled town
Had its defences
Proclaiming that the watchmen
On its tall battlements
Would sight an eastern invader
Miles away
And be prepared

The damage of cannonballs and musket fire
And temporal decay
The depredations of myriad birds
Carts and wagon blows
Passing through
The dark, still dark
Entry between those sturdy legs
Where once a strong portcullis
Held off invaders and midnight travellers.
Or allowed entrance to those able to pay the town's taxes

Historic heritage
To stand futile guard
Against an enemy that already surrounds and penetrates
Polluting, destroying
With noise, fumes, vibration
Deterring only the heavy trucks
That would eagerly push him aside
To clear the way for regressive progress

Gay flowers soften
His tough function
As tourist groupies snap their cameras
Seduce with hollow admiration
That also serves its purpose
Grants a new lease of life
A new usefulness
In a less certain age

by Roger Hudson

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