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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 6, Number 1, March 2012

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Dorrie Johnson
Bubbenhall, Warwickshire, UK


Eaves drip babies

1710 CE

2010 CE

The scream hit him.
Ignoring the midwife
he cradled his wife.

 

He felt buoyant. His new job would start tomorrow. It was still a labouring job but better than the building site he'd been on. This was a new thing for him—never been one for going near churches. The rain was a pain in the arse but the whole point was to improve the drainage where it was so wet.

Their first baby,
dead before it was born;
the priest would want to know.
 
 

The old flagstones must have been there for donkey's years but they'd been well made however old they were. They mustn't be damaged. This would be a slow spade and shovel job. No digger could get this close to the church wall. He took a crowbar, edged up the first stone, then the second, carried them away to lean up safely against an old vault.

Still born,
unbaptised
an unmarked grave
 
 

The soil was dark, nourished by the rain which, for centuries, had dripped off the eaves. It could have been dry, stony dust so close to the walls, difficult to work. This was soft—but there was something else. Tiny bones had been hidden here, beneath the flagstones, right by the church wall.

A small hole,
the steady drip
of comfort.
 
 

He found another job, moved away but still from time to time, he returns to stand beneath the eaves. He always places flowers beside the small headstone in the churchyard that now marks the grave for unknown babies.

He comes back sometimes
when it's raining
to stand a while.
 


Note: Around 1600-1850 in the UK still born babies, as they had not been baptised, could not be buried in consecrated ground. Not infrequently they were placed in unconsecrated ground to the North of the church or close to the church wall beneath the eaves—hence the name Eaves drip babies.

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