Reliquary

by Elizabeth Barton

I cannot keep you, but I can carve you a wooden box,
engrave it with your name; I will not smother it in gold,

cobalt blue enamel, set it with rubies, pearls;
I’ll make an aperture of rock crystal to let the light in.

Inside this box, I’ll place no giant knuckle bone,
no vial of the precious blood you donated all your life,

only the words you loved – Rubaiyat from Persia,
Bible readings, poems learnt from childhood.

I remember how the verses tumbled from your lips
like beads of prayer, your grey-green eyes shining.

I will not place this box, containing everything
and nothing, on a stone altar, blow an ivory horn

to summon pilgrims to your shrine – I’ll keep it close
and when I press it to my ear, I’ll hear your voice.