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You are in: Northamptonshire » Features

May 2004
Write '04
The entries

Thomas Cooper
By Janet Reedman
from Northampton

Thomas Cooper squatted on the pile of rubble in Gregory's Lane, staring down at his pale white hands. Moonlight flooding down from on high made an incorporeal blue blur of hair and face and ragged shirt as he huddled amidst the ruined buildings that bordered the deserted carpark. He raised his head as an old drunken derelict stumbled by, his tangled silver beard outthrust like a wizard's beneath a battered hat, his wine-hot breath steaming in the chill air.

He didn't see Tom was an insignificant as a piece of rubbish, a pallid form hanging timidly in the shadows of a sun bleached brick wall. Thomas stared up at the alien wall, its surface scored by years of exposure. On its uppermost outcrop, a rusty iron door without a room to go to opened like a mouth onto the starless night. The wind sighed mournfully though the doors' emptiness. It scared Tom, the night and the wind and the bleak surroundings. He closed his eyes, tried to think.

At one time there had been a church on this site, a friendly welcoming chuch built of warm stone that glowed like embers in the noonday sun and like fairy silver beneath beneath the moon. It had a door carved with chevrons and gargoyle round the roof, and inside, past the ornate rood screen with its golden traceries, was an ancient relic, the Holy Rood in the Wall, where pilgrims came to pray. Thomas opened his eyes again. Stupid dreamer. That church and its relic was long gone, the church in ruins beneath the scabrous Victorian building he stood in, its relic smashed into a thousand shards by Cromwell's men.

Everything was ugly and desecrated, even the graves that had stretched down to the edge of Gregory's Lane and up to Horsemarket, the bones tossed out or taken away by learned men for observation. Thomas bowed his head He felt sad here, so sad and lost...maybe it was time to move on, go away, find another place.A place where he could be at peace, not troubled in mind and body.

Silently he wandered toward Marefair street, passing a young couple kissing and groping between mouthfuls of a rancid kebab. They did not even glance at him though the girl plucked at her short skirt and squealed 'Wind's got me skirt, you can see my knickers!'

Crossing the road at the traffic lights, Tom stood in front of a huge cinema complex, lit up like a massive torch, its ultra modern roofline poking the dark like a huge beak. He entered the sliding doors, wandering upstairs through theechoing halls lit by a eerie green floodlights.

Looking from side to side at the smooth walls,a faint smiled tugged his pale lips.

This place was like a sepulchre. A tomb.

A place of rest.

Thomas felt much happier now. He lowered himself onto the floor and crouched down in foetal position, knees drawn to chest, hands folded piously. He began to think of sunny days in a far distant past - the busy bustle of Marefair and all its sights and smells, the little church with its sacred cross, reputedly to be the very heart of England....

At that moment another young couple exiting a late night movie rushed towards his crouched form, gabbling exitedly to each other as they discussed the film they'd seen. Their moving feet skimmed empty air...but then both glanced at each other, fell suddenly silent, and shivered.

Thomas the Cooper, young tradesman of St Gregory's parish, Northampton, in 1199, who had died at 22 and whose grave had been disturbed by modern industry, had found a new resting place above the old.

Northampton night out

drunks abound on the littered street
clothes peel from fat bodies in the heat
red sun dies weltering above the town
like the fire that once brought great walls down.

in the market square twilight's curtain
enfolds one all--and nothing's certain;
whether lost souls are the nightly drunks
or the fleeting shades of long dead monks

seeking cloisters of an ancient abbey
under the shopping mall,tawdry, shabby
Amid acrid fumes in Greyfriar's station
chants drown beneath drunks' ululation.


Also see
• Write '04 - index of entries
• More on Write '04
• Writing homepage



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