The Penance of St Stephen

by Andy Jackson

Patron Saint of Bricklayers

We spent a fortnight in the glowering sun,
laying courses till the job was done,
as were we. You the bricks and I the mortar,
we’d build rows, our English Bond secured
in the soft strength of clay, the blood stirred
like a paste to bind the sand and water.
If we laboured at its fabrication for too long
without a plan, then I was happy to be wrong.

Dam of stone in place, we turned our facings
to the weather, thinking of the other masons
who had reached their stopped end. Our fate
was not to finish what was started but to build
at angles, consummating nothing of our skills
except an inability to keep things straight.
Now that all the work is done I can’t begin
to know what we kept out, what we walled in.