My Writing Space
The Last Refuge
Burial at Sea
BURIAL AT SEA
Isn’t He Wonderful
A man of the world, you can claim
the accolades. Cultured, humane,
outstanding in your field, handsome
in your way, earning a tidy sum
and giving nothing away. Your age
is not against you. What health! Sage
presence. Perfect in a crisis.
A past master of the hand kiss
when pleasing the ladies. All that,
and yet you have the soul of a rat.
You inside trade on your good name -
God’s gift to mankind - without shame
serve your own interests. Exemplar
of the bite back at who would bar
your way. Sharpest teeth in the sewers,
you tear off, grind down, with a ‘yours
is mine’, the hindrance to eat
him live. A perfect crime. Discreet
in execution. Not a trace
left behind in your smiling face.
Stanis Kills Tatty with Two Head Blows
Stanis kills Tatty with two head blows,
and injects her with formaldehyde.
Then buries the hammer under the fig tree.
And continues gardening as though nothing has happened.
He sits in the basement patio smoking his pipe and reading
Spengler, and when a nosey neighbour, to annoy him,
asks how is Tatty is, he says, ‘She’s taken to her bed’.
Which is true. He has propped her up
surrounded by family mementos. Her daughter’s
ashes, some kidney stones and a bone from her father.
She looks in good condition. Her skullcap covers
where the brain was bashed in. Sometimes
he puts a cigarette in her mouth and barks
a marching song from Hitler youth days.
When the gendarmes come he shows them the body
and promises to go quietly if they kneel down
and say a prayer at the bedside. Being Catholics,
they cannot very well refuse. He lights
a candle, and while Delphine Joyeux
leads with a quick Hail Mary, Stanis slips out
and comes back with an automatic and shoots
the lot of them. Only Tatty is left untouched.
Then he turns the gun on himself, and the blood sprays
all over Tatty. He dies in her arms.
The Male Sitter’s Complaint
Russell’s women, former
and present, like to paint
him into a corner.
He poses as a saint.
Let this be a warner.
Don’t be an artist’s mate.
As little Jack Horner
they’ll hang you in the Tate.
On Being Your Own Ghost
The terror of travel is in the mirrors.
Hotel rooms, where you cannot chose the light
and backdrop, show you as a sight for sore eyes.
The cracks come in slivers. You live with the fright.
My recourse is to wear reflector glasses,
and make my facial toilet by memory.
And trust the staff not to wince at what passes
for being human. Other guests, like you and me,
live in a hall of horrors. Let them advance
along the corridor, blinkered but unbowed.
We see what we want to, and without a glance,
shuffle past. To be your own ghost is allowed.
Where I come from, people who don’t respond
to a friendly greeting, and vanish
over the hill, are sure to find a pond
to fall into where, eaten by a fish,
they languish in the bulrushes until
an indolent boy hooks them, and end up
in the unacknowledged person’s stomach,
to be digested at leisure with a cup
of spring water, and then they’re allowed back
on the road and given a second chance.
Few ever fail to learn their lesson for
the next time it will be in boglands
and ten thousand years will pass before
they are found again, perfectly preserved,
but in dead shock. They have got what they deserved.
The Archeology of Extinction
Dr Bley says my teeth will outlive me.
I don’t know if this is cause for ennui
or a bonus. He might want to continue
with checkups, and maintenance care, after
I’m dead. Although it is doubtful if he
will see them out. There’s much yellow laughter
between us on this point. But it is true
our hard tissues will outlast our history,
doubtless radioactive, dangerous to know.
The way of the flesh is more a mystery.
We share a meal at his favourite bistrot
where the new wine is old, and the old new.
And the dorade should have died hereafter.
But the crème brulée never fails to go
down like the sun behind Canigou. Coffee
in our veins and with a cigar to chew,
we fall out into a night where stars are so
numerous the ocean is a Christmas tree.
The good dentist inclines to the long view.
Tooth and bones dissolve if you’re buried at sea.
A Whiteman’s Blues
I didn’t wake up this morning.
I think I must be dead.
I didn’t wake up this morning.
I’m in heaven instead.
A pretty good place this heaven.
You get to sleep in your own bed.
Here nobody does a done gone.
And you don’t have to move.
Someone else shifts the cowdung.
I don’t think my life could improve.