Sport 38: Winter 2010
from Investigation of the Candidates' Lives: Rumwold
I worship the three in one,
father, holy ghost and son.
Do not cry, but sing with me
Te Deum Laudamus, the
hymn most fit for baptism.
We had exchanged roles—struck-dumb adults
expressing themselves in yelps; baby
eloquent and full of piety.
Like stutterers, the grown-ups found song
a good means of articulating.
So loud and bonny, Mother sighed
proudly at the hymn's end, accustomed
suddenly to her freakish offspring.
Look at your fat red face and listen
to you bellowing commands. She pinched
my cheek gently. Thank you,
but now I need to be made
catechumen. Where's the Priest
Widerin? His name appeared.
Widerin, please baptise me
Rumwold. This time my mind was left blank,
the name all my own. Rumwold,
round and solid. Memorable.
I will be the first of many babies called
Rumwold, I hoped. Bring me
that hollow stone, I howled, waving
a fat hand at the green mossy rock
overgrown with convulvulus. The two priests
Widerin and Eadwald rushed to lift
the makeshift font. It was a struggle
until their faith in the aid
of the Creator was strong
enough, then so were their arms.
Miracles! They cried, heaving
the granite bowl to my side.
As they cupped their hands
and scooped water from the stone
over my bloody red forehead
we sang Te Deum laudamus:
Good God, you are our Lord;
all the world should adore
Agony aunt of the angels,
You, celestial listener,
hear and answer every question.
Blessed, blessed, blessed,
King of the Sabbath, You
lend life a royal hue.
Soldiers, martyrs, disciples praise
You; clergy, babies, ladies praise
You. The Holy Church praises Your
values: majestic, true
and soothing. Splendid King,
Splendid Ghost, Splendid Son.
Your respect for the Virgin's womb
is so worthy. When the Kingdom
of Heaven had an open home,
as soon as you'd blunted
death's blade, the believers
streamed in. You were sitting
at Your Father's right hand. Please come
and judge us: servants, lovers, who drink
your precious blood so as to be
numbered amongst Your Saints
save, govern, elevate
us. Minute by minute You grow,
to us, Your name never leaves
our lips. Have mercy on us trusting
ones. We trust that You will
never disappoint us.
Please, let our faith make sense.
Once King's Sutton, my hamlet birth
place seemed to some supernaturally green
clustered with narcissus, Lucerne, lilies
and wild roses, holding a well
filled with rust-coloured rocks and blessed water.
In this pretty field babies aged
and adults shed their years. There's vanity
in faith, in prayer, the reflection
that grips one's attention. They all listened
to my words and believed Jesus
had picked them to witness this miracle.
A glorious English day—
mild and clear, a divine child, healing spring
water, verdant setting. Three days
on earth and he gets the best of them
my underworked nanny said, proud
as punch, with a negligible measure
of lament. Skip forward a thousand years
to the day Doctors Lower and Willis
tested Rumwold's Well on the way
to visit patients at Astrop Mansion.
The medicinally tinged water
turned into a spa, social diversion
and form of bodily renewal.
This Rumwold baby never existed,
did he? Health conscious visitors
with an interest in local history
would ask. I shouldn't think so; just
a fanciful invention inspired by
that little chapel down the road.
Of course, it's all gone now: chapel flattened,
orangey water gushing out
of some families' hot taps. Bloody rust!
Do I have to call the plumber
myself? A scold now shouts to her husband.
Watch my lower lip move
on the wire, my eyes roll
towards you. Follow me.
I'm too heavy to move, so
come to me. Where on earth
did they get such notions?
Was it from the hollow stone
the priests nearly snapped their backs
trying to turn into my baptismal font?
I was never, ever heavy. Full of air,
big lungs for bellowing from the get go,
but never heavy. If they'd wanted an eye-
catching icon, they should have painted my face
on a red balloon. I was almost floating away
during those three days. Everyone in
the field was struggling to stay earthbound.
There were no strings to hold us down.
No wooden pins. No wires or need
for candles and crankshafts.
Just a talking baby.
Purposeless except for this moment.
That was a real spectacle.
Even the King would have been
impressed, had I let him attend.
Lord, I am forgotten now.
Without toys and pulleys.
The only man who talks about me
today does not bother with tricks.
His voice and website are not sufficient,
nor would sermons and poems save me.
If I am to remain saintly, I need more
than six churches to be named after me.
Perhaps a movie? Apparently I heal
the sick and soothe the sad on command.
I wouldn't know; no one has ever asked me
a favour. I would certainly try.
See, I am real. Not a wooden boy.
Not a Boxley toy. Not even a baby,
any more. Stunted fellow.
My image has been hacked to pieces
by zealous reformers. No pretty boy
saint of stone, I would let a niggardly
visitor lift me and evade the generous
pilgrims throwing alms all over the place.
My weighty image? It must have been a joke.