Upper room religion. One disciple
Comes hot from his shift, smelling
Of cooking fat. The sick man
Is restless behind the partition.
They hear him sneezing.
In his experienced voice the leader
Chats about dates. They expand
Into another identity. Appearance here
Equals confession. Strangers know
What friends must never.
A scratch lot, whose liaisons
Are casual as cats’, they ponder
The mystery of marriage-vows.
It must be great to be so sure.
Disciples whom Jesus loves.
They tell mild misogynist jokes,
Muse on cottaging’s dangers, genuflect
In the direction of St Oscar. Now street lamps
Lighten the darkness; Bill is scared
To be out at night.
Someone will take him home.
Let us pray. Holy and hopeless, they stand,
Whom neither man nor God will leave alone,
Praying for love, joy, peace,
And for their enemies.
This unpublished poem by U. A. Fanthorpe, written in the 1970s, was sent to the Church Times by Dr R. V. Bailey, her partner of many years, to commemorate the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which decriminalised homosexual behaviour. © R. V. Bailey