fred? dead?

that’s Fred, smiling in his judo gi
throwing me with a casual flick of his knee
so easily and brutally
that all my bones sequentially crack
as I come down hard with a graceless smack
impressing my body in the dojo mat
and lie there floundering flat on my back
when he kneels and gently holds my hand
till I feel well enough to stand
and carry on with the lesson as planned

that’s Fred, belting out Ring of Fire
driving his truck as the flames went higher
down the long straight roads of Cambridgeshire
butcher to butcher with cargoes of meat
slapping the wheel as he keeps the beat
through fields of maize and plains of wheat
and rows of sprouts and sugar beet
with his bloody cap and rubber boots
salmon sandwiches and juicy fruits
till he’s out to the pub in his fat black suit

that’s Fred, riding around in a Bentley
reading stocks and shares intently
chasing a million evidently
buying old houses in the poorer quarters
doing them up with sweat and mortar
renting them out to the factory workers
giving short shrift to the news reporters
and the next thing you know
he’s setting up shop on the ring road
diversifying his portfolio

that’s Fred, lying in a silk-lined casket
ten days after his heart blew a gasket
his tax returns shredded in a waste paper basket
and I can’t believe he’s really dead
a force of nature the preacher said
strong in body, stronger in head
improvising A to Z
and I think of him standing out on the mat
grabbing my collar and throwing me flat
then bowing and vanishing – and that was that

IMG_1027

the proposition

when you’re dead, you’re dead / with one definitive snip of the thread / away you float / head first down eternity’s capacious throat / or / maybe death is just a door / maybe you die and you go somewhere else / your consciousness melts / and you get sucked into another realm / Valhalla, maybe, with Odin posing at the helm / or Nirvana / Jannah, Trāyastriṃśa / Aukumea / variations on the idea of the holy layer / domes & levels / supervised by countless angels & devils / where finally you might get rewarded / for all those good deeds you meticulously hoarded / or punished for those you forgot / and pitched headfirst to somewhere hot / where all the tormented entities / gargle lava & prod each other with horrible utilities / like long-handled toasting forks / (according to the most reliable reports)

fact is / no-one understands it / as Shakespeare rightly pointed out in Hamlet / death is an undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns / or blogs about their concerns / no pics on Flickr / Instagram or Twitter / or anything that might shed light on the guff / behind all that Life Ever After stuff / which is probably why these myths are so persistent / with so many contradictory versions co-existent

anyway / at the end of the day / it’ll probably just be like before I was born / people shopping and mowing the lawn / or things a little more obnoxious / with me, happily unconscious / circling the earth in a random atomic cook-up / just waiting for my mum & dad to hook-up

death by powerpoint

thanks for coming / please be seated

now – death does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited / death means all your paperwork’s completed / death be nimble, death be quick / death be colonel mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick / death is the opposite of whatever the hell this is / death means never having to do the dishes / worrying about where to put all the surplus oil / death is TOIL / time off in lieu / to you / I mean of life, of course / death is a no-legged horse / death is the death of strife / death is the cure for life / death means never falling asleep reading a heavyweight literary book / you’re off the hook / on vacation / death, the ultimate prevarication / where all your hours accrue like mold / death has put you on hold / an awkward pause, a longueur / death does NOT make the heart grow stronger / death is a Masonic lodge /where everyone knows the dodge / and swears allegiance / and thanks you for your perseverance / and you take your last breath and lie down in the basket / and you have one last question but can’t ask it / and they close the lid and sing a sad song / and finally you belong / because death is me and you, you and me / lots and lots for us never to see / from here to eternity / whichever comes sooner / death and the maiden, the baby boomer / and every other child that ever was born / death the dealer, death the skunk / death the comically desiccated monk / hung on a wall in a catacomb / death the cartoon / that works on every level / death the death of trouble / death means never paying for another overpriced ticket / or falling drunk in a bramble thicket / or playing cricket / you’ve pulled stumps / quit that shit / you’ve big time quit / you’re three feet under / what death has joined together let no man put asunder / death means never again feeling uneasy / queasy / or seeing one more goddamn film by Martin Scorsese / death means never riding another bike / or cab / or any new form of transport currently in development back in the lab / like a maglev train / or a teleporting brain / a driverless lorry / death means never having to say you’re sorry / death means never listening to a politician on the radio and then switching it off because you haven’t understood a word they’ve said / death is the longest you’ve ever stayed in bed / and then some / death is a loss of momentum / death is a complete absence of the enjoyment of avocado / death is incommunicado / a lack of bravado / or anything else for that matter / death is a no-food platter / death means never having a son and calling him Xavier / or saviour / which is a better rhyme / death is a surfeit of time / death is Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, the delayer / death is the world’s most prolific slayer / a whoreson betrayer of truths / and half-built roofs / or maybe it’s rooves / I’m not quite sure / anyway, death is a door / you’re either one side or the other / death is the world’s worst brother / who never, ever keeps in touch / death doesn’t care all that much / because death is basically lazy, crazy, a putz / death is totally kaputz / an absolute vacancy of Pizza huts / death means never again mistakenly ordering the stuffed crust / death, a loss of trust / death is a lockdown, lie-in, no-show / death is on the down-lo / but anyway, thanks for trying / death is buying / burying / death is boring / death is the blissful absence of snoring / death is the end to all philosophical endeavour / death has come to everyone in history who has ever been called Trevor / or Eve / or The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas St John Reeve / death wears its heart on its sleeve / as it dances forlornly with its sickle / death is the last remaining pickle / in a jar of brine / shining and divine / floating round a doughnut of time / death is a one way sign / death wants you to slow down a little / death is waiting for you at the hospital / so now, get you to my lady’s chamber / she’s scared to death and who can blame her

postmortem

I smell the badger before I see it / sprawled flat / on its back / in a bramble thicket / right by my boot

despite my revulsion / I have a compulsion / to witness the scene / so I part the brambles to get a better look

black and white fur laid out to the root / that fine spine / those whorls of ribs / teeth and skull / the whole machine / cruelly broken open / exposed to the rain / raw mortality / measured out in maggots / diptera / coleoptera / devout followers / hotly rolling in the hollow chamber of an eye

and suddenly I don’t want to be there / horribly aware / of the pattern of bones / in my boots / the rooks in the trees / the roots below / and I really have to go / get well away from there / and fill my lungs with cleaner air

alas, poor badgerIMG_1495
go, get you to the sett / tell them / let them eat a thousand worms /
to this favour they must come

 

elegy to a cemetery crow

walking with Lola out to the woods
we cut through the cemetery straight
find a plastic rose from one of the graves
blown over by the churchyard gate

I guess they used a plastic bloom
so they didn’t have to come so often
even though they look quite cheap round a tomb
and tacky as hell on a coffin

but these are the dodges you use around death
to keep the whole thing more tractable
it makes the dead seem closer to home
and not quite so non-contactable

oh – what would they say if these bones could talk?
would they tell of their loves and caprices?
would they fling back the stones and struggle to walk
or immediately fall into pieces?

No. They are dead. The End is the End.IMG_8605
(I’m sorry to burst your bubble
but better you hear it now, from a friend,
and save yourself decades of trouble)

because death is neither a sleep nor a bourn
– the euphemisms I could mention –
and this plastic flower you brought to mourn
marks a truly natural dimension

It’s a part of life, I’m happy to say
as real as that cemetery crow
everyone has to go through it some day
– so that’s reassuring to know