St Michael’s Tower on the North Gate is the oldest structure in Oxford. I spent nearly an hour standing on top of it, contemplating the Martyrs who were held in the prison that once stood above the long ago demolished gate in the high street below. Now the streets are populated by foreign students and tourists. Street vendors sell souvineers, tour guides shout loudly to gather crowds, buskers play old nostalgic tunes and a man sits outside the bookshop across the road begging for money.
The buidings on the skyline are a postmodern jumble of old and new. Buildings merge into one another, history rises like a odour from the drains beneath us.
I find myself thinking of the Martyr who was lucky enough to have friends in Oxford; lucky enough to be given a necklace of gunpowder so when they burnt him at the stake some 200 yards from where I looked down, his head exploded when the flames reached his chest.
I see mud and ditches and struggle. It’s still there in Oxford. What is it that draws people to this place?
The Music is Hinterm Naechsten by Huegel performed by Jonas Hamm.
An apple fell from the apple tree.
In the darkness I heard it fall.
It tumbled through the high branches,
And broke upon the wall.
As it fell, it brushed against the leaves,
in the still September air,
and I think I heard them whisper,
quite clearly, “Why weren’t you there?”
The moon is nearly with us.
Everything is different in it’s pale, half light.
This one sings “Winter!”
Relax for now in it’s unwavering sight.
If you dance with a stranger
with your eyes shining bright.
remember it is there,
running through your hair.
Remember it will soon be gone.
Footprints traced the hours before
journeys riddled on the shore
there among them moved a sparrow
feet so swift and prints so shallow
If not seen with searching eyes
it’s presence here could be denied
it’s gentle elegance and grace
erased by giants in it’s place
For every story sacrifices
to favour narrative devices
while tide will wash those prints away
my sparrow penned is here to stay.
“Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child, believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome, grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 1, Ch. 13