Not Bishops Muzorewa or Sentamu! This is the black bishop in chess, but is the conflict really on a chess-board? Towards the end I evoke legends of Arthurian kingship and conflict. Like many of my characters, the Black Bishop feels a sense of duty and the reality of a role, but cannot define either. He (she?) is at once priestly and mystified. I recently posted on “My very own archetypes” and the Black Bishop seems to me to draw on three of them – the Wounded Magician, the Ignorant Soldier and the Watcher – perhaps even the Rider.
I am the black bishop, charged to strike
With marvellous speed along diagonals
Unable to go up or down, condemned
To follow one colour only until I fall
Or sleep. I am the lord of sidelong charges.
I am engaged in a cause we do not know
I am a soldier in a war we did not start,
And what we fight is like a mirror image
Of what we think we are. There have been wars, I think,
On this terrain before, and those dead struggles
Direct our own: the strings are pulled from far.
I am the priest of all the unknown altars.
I am a dream that I have long become
I am a comrade of the warring ghosts
Whose squares and files advance, collapse, reform
Into the mists that grizzle the warm night
My extreme unction’s carried like a mortar
My dying will be by a seep of water
I would not know from blood: I am the wandering order.
Here is the blade she gave me by the boardway
Across the marshes that are dried and ploughed
Here is the word I could not speak when grasping
The grooved hilt. For what did I take the sword?
I’ve written in my living will and dying
It should be taken to the fence-fanged pond
Survivor of the marshes, where a lady
Unknown, unseen, may take it in her hand
And that is all, though I apply the book and wand,
That I, blind soldier, fight to understand.