St Stephen’s – a Speculation
On an April morning two young women
plant a poplar tree in St Stephen’s Green.
In a grid of straight streets
the fingernail curve of St Stephen’s Street
with a tall hotel at the far end
traces the northern edge
of a lost monastic enclosure; its bell
rang out over a black pool
before Viking ships made landfall at the Long Stone.
The enclosure came to hold St Mary’s Abbey
and the leper hospital of St Stephen
which owned a grazing green to the east
through which, many centuries later,
a fictional student
of the same name would stroll out
with real hands sunk in his pockets
to become almost as real as Hamlet.
He strolled out well after the Liberator’s time,
after the hospital had been renamed
and St Mary’s Abbey replaced with a soaring nave
under whose altar lie the bones of St Valentine,
a Roman martyr, portrayed with an orchid,
as his feast day replaced the shepherds’ spring feast
of Lupercalia – and who knows what ritual site
the lost monastery might have replaced
near the meeting of four great roads,
what shepherding of fertility and death,
what grove of sacred trees
above a black pool.
From Moya Cannon’s latest work, Keats Lives