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Hospitium – a poem by Geoffrey Winch


it was bound to have begun somewhere
that pilgrimage which became life’s work

not at a desk, but a drawing board within
the heart of the ruined Abbey’s relic:
the Hospitium of Saint John the Baptist

the echoey voices of its thick flint walls
and deep-set windows spoke to me instantly –

once a grammar school, its inherited spirits
of learning ever-suggesting routes that
would lead me to an unexpected career –

once a dormitory: a provider of sanctuary
for souls preparing for onward journeys –

young draughtsman among new friends:
planners tasked with controlling how
our town reshaped itself ceaselessly

arched doorway: enchanted when entering
from St Laurence’s churchyard tranquillity

or choosing the Town Hall steps to pass
along corridors – Victorian to Medieval –
to climb the office’s so-steep stairs:

five brief years these juxtaposed histories
worked for me, then let me go my way

Geoffrey Winch


Geoffrey Winch was born in Reading in 1943; educated at George Palmer Junior and Stoneham Grammar schools, and began his career in the Borough Council’s Town Planning Department. He subsequently became a surveyor and highway engineer working in Hampshire, Warwickshire, and West Sussex where he is now retired. For many years he’s been associated with various creative writing groups, and for more than three decades his poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies mainly in the UK, US and online. In 2011 he was awarded the accolade of ‘The UK’s Best Small Press Poet’ by Purple Patch magazine. He has published seven collections, most recently Velocities and Drifts of Winds (Dempsey & Windle, 2020), and Coffee at Cockburn’s (Felworth Books, 2023) which is a collaboration with Cherrie Taylor.

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