Old Man of Fontcalvy

Old Man of Fontcalvy

The monk, long served, arises

Bathed, through shutter’s lid

In single beam of golden light

The last such kiss he will receive

An echo of that given, late,

By parting Father Abbot

True friend of forty years

Beneath the blocks

That now shield ageing flesh

From withering sun’s ordeal.

Alone, at last, the old man of Fontcalvy

Surveys his hallowed stones

His to close, to lock, forget, the man and boy

And then,

To take away its dying sigh

To leave, uncentred, radians of growing life

That fill the silent, fertile marsh,

Around this gentle place

Where loving hands have passed true peace

And eyes have shone the light

Of understanding, common,

By any tongue, or symbol fit of learning.

Cold water washes one last time

From stony trough

The aged fingers hold but drops

Unlike plump fruit of fields nearby

Beneath a blazing sun, two-natured:

To nourish and to age, and, perhaps, today,


Do I want to leave this place?

His leathered sandals seem to ask

As, flapping, softly, on the worn and polished oak

He notes that brightness from the East,

Is lighter, yet, than any he has known

It blazes through the ancient wooden door,

Final gate, through which his life must pass,

Where, waiting, soon,

A brother monk will load him, ripe like fruit well turned,

Onto a cart which rides the road of dotage

But what is this? The motes which

Spin and curl with sweet refrain

Between the rays of gold,

Now singing out his name?

Come! Dusty, wrinkled chalice

Filled with heart and kindness

Let radiant world of gold and blue

Belong to you…

And, nearing them, in silence

And not the decades’ creak

With which it welcomed many

From that dusty road outside

The heavy wooden portal opens wide, itself…

In perfect, shining grace

With tearful eyes abrim

He finds the sky

With golden eye

Has come for him.

In memory of my Father

Edward Tanham
A bearer of the Light
©Stephen Tanham, 2016


8 thoughts on “Old Man of Fontcalvy

  1. Pingback: Old Man of Fontcalvy – from Steve Tanham | Sue Vincent – Daily Echo

    • Thank you, Suzanne. The place had a quiet and haunting beauty. At the time I couldn’t express it, but as we rode off on our bikes, the words began to form into what became that tribute. I’ve never been able to ‘find’ them before now…


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