Thomas a Beckett – his day

A Poem for St Thomas of Canterbury, for December 29th – a haibun

Strangely, King Henry II’s closest ally was no nobleman; instead, Thomas à Becket was a priest, the son of a petty Cheapside merchant, who nevertheless rose high in the old church. But when that holy man began to pay less heed to his earthly monarch than to his heavenly King, Henry knew he had to rid himself of his friend. No mean contender, the king dispatched not one but four of his most savage knights (with swords swift and sharp as talons) to slay the unarmed Becket in Canterbury.

only half an ounce

of red-breast feathers held still

in shock—rolling song cut short

 

in the tight-hooked claw

under the regal black eyes

of the sparrow-hawk— 

Four knights’ swords sliced through the still cathedral air, no mercy shown.

                                                                  a fierce, fast flash-past

of indigo, silver, slate—

wings steely, smoke-blue

 When the archbishop’s red blood gushed down those sacred steps, did Thomas see as he fell a vision of the hawks he had learned to fly while still a boy playing on the Sussex Downs—long before he knew the king, long before he became a priest?

                                                                     one beauty devours

another—nature brooks no

tender sentiment

 King Henry had thought to triumph over Becket. Yet, more than eight hundred years later, the voice of Thomas of Canterbury has never been silenced.

                                                                         in another tree

a younger robin takes up

his song & sings it

 © Lizzie Ballagher

bird-robin-erithacus-rubecula-13603325680yq[1]

Of course a sparrow-hawk feels no remorse for taking a robin to feed its young. I do wonder, though: what did the English monarch feel after Beckett’s death?

 

Winter Robin

Recently I enjoyed trying to capture in words the little bird that would perhaps better be portrayed by a camera…so here are both!

Quick Robin 

Still,
Poised
Against the breeze
(The February freeze)
Alert
With song of beak,
Spike of claw,
Spark of eye,
Tuft and tilt of tail,
Fluff and fern and frond of feather;
Ready to spring from the wall and feel
The gift of air,
The lift and drift
Of wing and wind:
Quick robin
Poised,
Still.                                             

© Lizzie Ballagher

 

bird-robin-erithacus-rubecula-13603325680yq[1](Thanks to PublicDomainPictures.net)