white plastic flowers

There are three brightly-coloured, classic American cars parked nose-to-fin along the side of the road. It’s strange to see them in this thoroughly-suburban scene, like I’ve wandered into a perverse mash-up of LA Confidential and One Foot in the Grave. Frank’s bungalow is a little further up. It’s got a perfect square of grass out front, edged in pink cemetery chip, a white fountain in the centre with a cherub continuously urinating into a scallop shell. A little closer and you can see that everything is plastic, including the grass, which explains the sharpness of the lines and the colours, everything accentuated by the sky, low and grey, rumbling, threatening rain.

Frank answers the door, hunched over a zimmer frame, his dressing gown swinging open, his ascitic belly poking through.
‘Thanks for seeing me,’ he wheezes. ‘Come on in.’
The bungalow is meticulously clear. It’s a laminate floor and it squeaks a little as Frank wheels his zimmer frame along it. He leads me through to the conservatory out back, the most prominent feature being a small-scale but perfectly detailed drinks bar – a Thirties-themed affair, with optics against a checkerboard background of black and white glass tiles, shelves of fancy cocktail glasses, old cigarette trays, mats, ice buckets, the whole deal.

It’s a routine assessment. Frank only needs a little care support since coming back from hospital. Everything else, all the nursing and therapy needs, have already been taken care of. It doesn’t take long.

Whilst I’m finishing off the paperwork, writing out the folder notes, Frank readjusts his dressing gown and looks out into the garden. It’s a larger version of the one out front, although the lawn, the silver birch and the shrubs look real enough. He’s hung thick skeins of white plastic flowers everywhere, to give the scene a rich, Hawaiian look, I suppose. The sky is so dark with the coming rain, they stand out with a strange intensity.

‘Watch out! Here it comes!’ says Frank, as the rain suddenly clatters down on the conservatory roof. The noise is so loud, he even has to shout a little. ‘It’s like being on stage!’ he says. ‘The crowd goes wild…’ And he waves out at the garden, smiling, nodding his head right and left, graciously accepting the applause, as the white plastic flowers shiver in the rain.

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