In the improvised church hall,
disordered rows of chairs announced
a film on ‘the life of Christ’.
We were children, on holiday
at the seaside, who still took communion
untroubled, and in the company
of curious or loafing adults
went at eight sharp to the life of Christ.
But someone mixed up the films
or set up a mischievous prank,
and from the start we knew
it was not Palestine
that the dusty beam of light projected
onto such a makeshift screen
that we could only call a sheet.
And soon enough the story swept us on.
Vera Cruz, heraldic western, napoleonic,
almost operatic. People died
(and resurrected out of sight)
and someone thought that not being
about Christ it was an unsuitable tale
for us to see at bedtime.
But the children’s summer camp
took sides, prevailed,
embracing with full, small arms
the alienation effect, the human shadow.
In the end, I believe our eyes
had the shine of Maximilian’s
treacherous, belligerent enemies.
Forever gone the surprise, the purity,
the mutiny of fascination, the clear night.
It was never the same, the life of Christ.