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Green Words Poetry Anthology: Cathedral Green

Discover poems written by members of the local community inspired by Cathedral Green. These poems are part of the Green Words Poetry Anthology curated by Riddler in Residence Aly Stoneman. 

The Green by Orianna Xu

The Green is more than green 
space shaped  
by old road-spokes.

Here, green grows  
between cobbles, 
and sooths souls  
more worn  
than the stone steps. 

With winter’s cool kiss,  
trees blush, 
and pigeons pouf, 
shedding like takeaway pastry flakes. 

Here, we meet,
perched with the birds, 
in this sacred amphitheatre  
of duelling gulls and chasing children. 

Under the oaks, 
Over coffee and resting places, 
we rest and tell our tales. 

Oblivious Observations by Swarnim Agrawal

why didn’t i bring a book to read?

sitting in front of the Cathedral, i feel…disconnected maybe?

the Cathedral seems like just…a structure erected in the middle of the city

            i have travelled to so many places admiring similar architectures

            yet i haven’t come here so often

i was heading back to the house         it’s yet to become my home

but i got drifted towards the Cathedral Green

i needed some quiet, while also watching others

            friends lazing about    people taking photographs, selfies

            children running up and down mini-slopes    seagulls chasing after food

            students chattering away        lovers enjoying a peaceful rendezvous

me sitting cross-legged on the grass, the quintessential black bag leaning against my leg

my off-white leather jacket resting in my lap, the mobile phone propped up on my jacket

constantly clicking photographs and videos of the eminent edifice

as the wind rustles through the glass blades

and pigeons take flight in groups

i’m happy i didn’t bring a book with me

it’s been quite a while since it was just the four of us…

            a blank page, words, my surroundings, and me.

Cathedral Green by Sarah Bartrum

The wind sweeps leaves and a few straggling tourists
Along paths and over grass
Beneath the rusting great tree.
Too soon for Autumn
A sickness, perhaps, that burns the leaves brown.
A blue-blond punk rests beneath
grateful for the back rest
but otherwise indifferent
to the canopy waving and sighing above,
or the spider that scuttles past
disappears down the crack between the slabs.
“All pathways by his feet are worn”It says on the ground.
Has god been down this crack?
Travelled along the web of roots and bones?
Did he also scamper out again and hurry onto the grassy pasture
Where she sits, orange hood pulled up close
technology in her hand
mind in another web,
beyond the tree
and wind
and crack.

Print by Lisa Dillon-Langhorn

Note from the poet: This poem was inspired by the way nature and people intersect across the Cathedral Green, sometimes oblivious to each other or to the magnificence of the Cathedral. 

You Bade Me Sit by Anabelle Denney

How long have you waited
Stood stock still and watched
These gatherings and hollerings

Bits of lunches scattered
Herring gulls haranguing
Babies crawling in your shadows

I sit in peace
And you throw your conkers at me
Narrowly miss my head, three times

You could be a hundred – or two
Ambitiously striving for the top
Time not a measuring tool for you

Had the sandstone walls, the turrets and gargoyles
Not been raised – or razed
Would you have grown from the ground
Or stood elsewhere, been an other

But you are here, Old Chestnut
Unquestionable companion
Befriended tree
How I do worship thee

The Pigeon Statue by P.J. Reed

The tired statue yawns and sits
legs crossed under his flowing gown,
a straining book spread on his lap.
Ecumenical eyes wander as he reads
his words and wonders whether time
has passed or still ticks the same?
He watches robins roost on Tudor
timbers as insects march across
squares of gently ungreening grass.
Preening pigeons perch upon his hat
and he settles back to sleep once more
as collared doves coo their choral lullaby.

A note from the poet: The poem is about the statue of Richard Hooker (1553-1600) outside Exeter Cathedral and the wild birds he sees as he sits there reading his book and watching as the centuries pass.

Chestnut Tree by Amy Adkin

What have you seen, in all your years on Cathedral Green?
Roots burrow into soil, while the city shifts and shapes around you.

What secrets have you heard and held,
when your snow draped limbs felt heavy?

You’ve seen storms form and flames rise.
Perhaps you have felt the girl’s heartache in your shade
and seen joy in the old man’s eyes.

You have weathered seasons of love and seasons of war.
Will you witness one hundred more?

Now, your leaves are speckled with autumn.
Birdsong marks the rising of day.
Rushed footsteps and gentle strolls.
Seagulls and quarrelling siblings might pass your way.

Soon, Christmas lights will shine around you,
like a starlit sky pulled down to the ground.

Some of us might have caught your words,
whispered by the wind.
I hope we can tell your tale.

Cathedral Close: October by Rod Stacy-Marks

A brisk North Wind blows tourists
like the dead leaves through the Cathedral Close.
Herding their flocks, Red-Coated Guides, full of facts,
entertain with their tall-tales.
People and pigeons potter about, linger and loiter,
listen to buskers, sit on the wall, peck at their picnics.
Meantime gulls lurk, unnoticed, skulking,
waiting to pounce on distracted sight-seers,
steal their sandwiches and souvenirs.
Headphoned and earbudded locals
glance at the Cathedral, take it for granted,
oblivious to the trees sponsored by
The Landfill Communities Trust,
oblivious to the sounds, the birds, other people.
Unaware, they stare at their little screens.

Death on the Green by Emma Jackson

It was early, still; I recall
the quiet emptiness,
just the usual eight-thirty peal of breakfast at The Ivy,
a virger putting out the tour sign, the distant click-clack of high heels
heading for work.
Not the sort of morning for a death.

The police are hardly strangers here, even at this time of day.
If I am asked, I will say, yes, a professional killer,
judging from the slick perfection and pace of the attack;
and pre-meditated:
watching and waiting, then springing like some wild animal.
Not a first offence.

Print by Louise Neilson

It was over in seconds, didn’t stand a chance.
The killer saw me – was even proud, skulking off
underneath the builders’ hoarding, head held high,
like nothing had happened.
The shocked, jaw-locked body jerking and juddering,
feathers hanging by a thread.
Not quite dead.


“AAAAAAARGH!” by André de Mendonça

Gulls dive bomb my head
“Ice cream!” I scream! Those blighters
Have eaten my treat!

Cathedral Green Haiku by Ven Nick Shutt

Green with a Hooker
Scripture, Reason, Tradition
Inclusive for all.

Haiku by Clare

Another record…
sunning ourselves on the Green
while the planet burns

From a bug’s eye view
the grass is riddled with weeds
(if you call them that)

From Cathedral Green by Lou Jones

Print by Lynn Bailey

What can we see here?
Squeezed for a space,
squished at all corners:
green stamps for the human race.

What can we feel here?
Rough branches across the face,
wise feet laced under ours.
Carbon-catchers for us to embrace.

What can we hear here?
Rooks above Southernhay place,
elemental, beyond the cars.
Time travellers, stay there safe.

What do we need here?
Plants for an urgent case:
extinction, and our pleasures.
Nature’s wand, for us to save.

After Thoughts by André de Mendonça

After Ted Hughes, et al* 

As I sit on the Green having my lunch,
I muse on the birds eyeing the sandwich that I munch.
Nothing but bounce and stab and a ravening second?
Those seconds crawl by, Thrush, and your domesday beckons.

Gas! Gas! Quick Boys! The CO2 alarm.
But still they do nothing, arms folded in silent calm.
The bells have been sounding for more than fifty years
And still they sit there smugly, hands over their ears.

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on their heads!
Come quickly now, before we’re all dead.
Extinction is real, it’s coming hither.
Politicians are dumb. Why do they dither?

The gulls might say remember me when I am gone away […]
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Will we tell our children of the future that we planned?
Or leave no wildlife, just a barren land?

Maybe we’ll just fade away, not having faced the facts,
But the sun is shining now, not all the world is black.
It’s time to act, it’s certainly not too late,
We cannot change the past, but we can change our fate.

*A note from the poet: This poem uses lines from poems by John Betjeman (Slough), Wilfred Owen (Dulce et Decorum East), Christina Rossetti (Remember), Ted Hughes (Thrushes), Mick Jagger and Keith Richard (Paint it Black).

The Cathedral Green by Canon Deborah Parsons

I am here
as the detritus of the night is swept away.
Discarded bottles toppled in the gusts or kicked recalcitrantly
splinter my belly with shards of glass.
Takeaway cartons, their contents half eaten,
lie on me like a dirty blanket and
used needles nestle in my undergrowth,
like glistening trinkets to an unsuspecting child.

I am here
as the city breathes into life
and workers sit and slough off sleep before the daily grind
and students gather in a giggling heap,
to share the stories of their day, while tourists gaze in awe, to marvel
at the grandeur of the Cathedral, ancient and living, as time stands still.

I am here
as Nature marks the changes in the seasons
and trees which offered food to feathered friends
prepare to shed their garments for another year, and moss and midge
and worms and winged-ones weep at humanity`s disrespect and cry out:

Will I be here?

Note from the poet: I’ve written a poem called ‘Cathedral Green’ because the Cathedral Green is such an important green space for me. It’s a hub. An intergenerational and inclusive community space, which is well-used but also abused. In my poem, I wanted to raise awareness of the importance of the Cathedral Green as shared space for all of creation, not just for human beings, and for the importance of good stewardship of all that we have been given.

Growan by Philippa Barfield

My growing fascination with green.
Green is related to the Old English verb, growan, meaning to grow.

Green places are natural and nurturing
Green symbolises environmental protection and social justice.

I love to walk in gardens and smell the herbs.
As a cook and a painter, the colour charts become endless recipes
For me to mix and stir as a child, painting by numbers.

Hope; Acorn Green 87, adds light to darkness.

Harmony; Pale Lime 70, gentle colour green.

Compassion: Citrine 71, north facing room with chocolate brown.

Generosity: Kitchen Green 85, happy transition to garden.

Calming: Pea Green 91, soft peaceful green.

Relaxing: Olive Oil 83, a beautiful classic green.

Healing: Sage Green 80, a restful quiet tone.

Durable: Green Verditer 92, favoured in Regency libraries.

Soothing: Boxington 84, relaxing backdrop for dining.

Purity: Woodbine 134, a neutral garden colour.

Renewal: Oak Apple 63, wet wood colour.

Fertility: Apple 137, a superb ground colour enhancing a myriad of soft furnishings.

My recipes for a colourful, compassionate and peaceful life – just add some green!

Print by Philippa Barfield

A note from the poet: Walking around the green space of the Cathedral Green, I thought about the colours of stone, slates and plants growing out of tiny crevices on the roof and walls. Looking at the beautiful names and numbers from my Little Greene colour charts, I have paired the qualities of the colour green with a partner paint colour and brief description. Using the numbers from the paint chart made me compare this to painting by numbers as a recipe for a healthy and nurturing life! The links of colours to food ingredients and plants that we grow in the garden such as peas, sage and apple green all combine to our basic need for green space to nourish and nurture our family and ourselves. Here is my poem using green words and how they paint a picture for me as an artist, cook and gardener!