Rumwold is not
I am Rumwold the Confessor.
Rumwold the Martyr?)
Not to be confused with St Rombaut
or Rumold of Mechlin
who was in fact a martyr.
Not to be confused.
It was supposed to be a memorable
name. Did I not enunciate?
Neither hungry nor pained, but needing to gain
my parent’s interest, the cry expanded
to the edges of the field, to the ears
of the harvesters half a mile behind
us. I had been told to use a big voice
to let my relaxed baby lungs pump out
not only glottal wails but words of God.
If I’m loud, my message will sound urgent;
adults cannot escape that new-born noise—
they are powerless, forced to listen to babe
and carry the burden of his commands.
I needed milk and appreciated
the closeness of arms, like a normal boy,
the rest of my requests were too abstract
to be explained through moans and screams.
My words, booming, red-faced words did the trick.
What was the trick? A sermon and a song
before the awful funeral arrangements?
You have to die, otherwise the message
loses significance. What
message? I wanted to ask Him.
A talking baby should be remembered
long after a sermonising adult.
I don’t know what I did wrong, to deserve
such neglect from posterity. Called confessor, not
martyr, falsely, I wasted all three days.
My church stood on the coast between Folkstone and Hythe.
Its small white spire called the fishermen to shore
showed them safe passage, between rocks and sand banks.
Profit from the fattest whiting went to me as thanks.
When the spire was firewood, foundations demolished
the fishermen put the rumbal whiting money
towards a Christmas Eve feast for families
of the workers. They should never have been called “Rumbal”
rather “Navigation” or “Beacon”, and later
“Celebration” whiting. The fish were a sweet gesture,
I just wish they’d been for me. Who is Rumbal? a young
fisherboy might wonder. Who indeed. Not I.
Even the church of Saint Rumwold forgot over time.
Farfetched baby doesn’t need fish, can’t keep up a beacon
for the boats at night. What did he do to become a saint?
Confessor? Sermonising from the start? Poor parents.
One expects a few years before the child talks back.
Unbelievable. Rumbal. Unbelievable Rumwold.
From Folkstone there now runs a scenic road with a view
of the boat-flecked harbour. Nobody ever needed me.
I certainly did not die
of old age, but nor was I ill.
A doctor might say the body
does not die without a malfunction
which could be described as illness.
My vital organs switched off simultaneously
like machines on a timer. They functioned
perfectly, as they were always meant to,
every organ but one. My brain ticked faster
if anything. Sometimes guillotined heads
continue trying to talk as they roll sideways—
I am still trying to talk, even now, with nothing
but bones and even those forgotten. Baptised
babies go to Heaven, so I can only assume
that Widerin was incompetent.
I am hanging on now, somewhere,
watching. Bitter. Bitterly forgotten.
Let’s pool my meagre resources for a moment:
a missal and breviary in the Swedish State Archives
in Stockholm (don’t ask). Eight pence left
in Thomas Westall’s 1525 will—for the upkeep
of my long gone altar. A dedication to “Rumbald”
in Stoke Doyle. A Church of “Saint Runwald”
in Colchester, and Rumboldswyke, Sussex
with an 11th Century church, now, of course
dedicated to Saint Mary. Not remembered
even in my own village. Granted, I’ve never felt saintly.
I believe in Jesus just because I’ve met him—
anyone could do that. Otherwise I might be cynical.
(Really, I wouldn’t exist at all). Not a saint, no
but a martyr. This is a rare confession
from Rumwold the Confessor. Mostly, I am martyr
giving up my tiny life for the cause. I was not willing;
am I still clinging to the voice I should have lost long ago?
That would explain my disgraceful position now.