There used to be this thing they did in church
Five hundred years ago, or maybe six;
No matter what you’d done, or who you’d hurt
Once you got across the threshold, up the step,
And grasped the altar cloth, no-one could touch you.
If you had been betrayed; abused; most cruelly used;
Blamed for some massive cock-up that some other sod had made,
If you had shot the Pope, you grabbed that altar cloth,
They couldn’t touch you. It didn’t matter if the king turned up,
Or knights or rooks or all hell’s angels,
The Sheriff of Nottingham, Darth Vader, John Wayne himself,
For forty days and nights, the church would hold you safe. It was the law.
It’s what we talk about when we say ‘refuge’ or ‘asylum’
It’s where you went, those days, when you were desperate and poor.
I never had much use for church myself
Although I went, of course; you do when you are small
And nothing adults do makes much sense anyway.
My parents never go. Their parents did. Just before
My granddad died, we’d hear each week
About the new minister. They did not approve.
He’d give his sermon pissed, fall down the stairs
Not being Catholic, they were not used to theatre.
I never had much use for church before
I never had a space to rest and breathe and be
Until I stumbled through your open door,
And clutched your altar cloth, and mumbled “sanctuary”.