REQUIEM FOR MYSELF
I lie on my back in the ground.
Over my head, birds scratch at stones.
"He lies on his back in the ground"
says a friend. He walks through rain.
His head is full of me, but then
a flush pulls, somewhere in his head.
He walks on, out of the graveyard.
Lying on my back in the ground
I try to imagine the graveyard,
think of all the graveyards I've known
from Godollo to Efford.
Types of rain.
Types of wind, of remorse.
Types of lament. Inscriptions on stones.
Arbitrary dates of birth and death.
He has left the graveyard and a rook comes down.
I imagine dark clouds. A Gothic feel.
Angels on stones are weeping warm moss.
Rain, yes, but I am making this up.
I am making this up, of course, the sound of his steps
as he walks down the road, to the rook's caw.
Types of attention and sleep.
Of life and death.
Caws. Soughing. Over my head
in branches, crows and magpies.
Afternoon fades as traffic squeals.
I imagine birds hopping in the light rain
as I lie on my back in the ground.
I decipher inscriptions I invent.
Over my head, the heavy birds hop.
The heaviness of birds, for the first time.
What can be done with that now?
This impossible poem is not being written.
Rain, indeed, and angels on stones.
Static angels. Birds in motion.
Rain. And my friend, beyond the gate,
walking back to the town.
Now is a time for regret.
How regrettable it is to be dead.
I must have thought of that before
but, as if for the very first time, the thought pervades.
To be written out of the script of the world.
Not to know, or be surprised.
To invent, in the opposite of time,
a poem I did not think I would write.
I look back, very briefly, over my life.
This makes my life no longer.
Types of regret. How many are there?
This one, the only one I know.
Under the stones, the slimy grass.
I didn't want this to happen, and you won't be surprised at that...
Death. It happens
and I'm looking up through roots -
nothing I can do, and I don't even want to move.
That's not what I want. I want to be back.
A dead fool is a fool, chattering from the grave.
Eternally foolish. Archaeopteryx set in stone.
I remember the words I wrote and laugh.
The ghost of a laugh, laughed off by a ghost.
Lying on my back in the ground
I try to imagine the life I had.
My friend is in the city and he wears my skin.
I can tell him nothing, now.
My completed words take their chances.
A snail breaks for cover and, on a rainy night,
the sexton will crush her and not notice.
All the words attached to my name erode
and night succeeds night, to the end of the world.
The world in which I 'rest' or 'sleep' or 'slumber'.
Types of evasion. Even now.
The absurd and euphemistic.
Things I have earned with death.
The arbitrary dates of birth and of the fading from self.
My friend has left the graveyard and a rook comes down.
Angels on stones are weeping champagne.
I am making all this up. I lie here under the ground
in Gödöllö or Efford.
Old ladies bring flowers,
but not to my grave. My grave is my own concern.
Dead, I am free to dream of the nature of my death.
epsilon and omega
Lying here, I listen to the birds as they hop.
The rain hits trees and graves.
The rain with a million mallets.
Livingly dead, I emerge from my grave
and switch off this machine. The rain stops.
How many angels can there be?
Like Simon Magus, I have lain beneath the ground
and mused on my death, livingly dead, in a poem's words.
Fear extends from here to the limits of ravenous space
and I'm not even sure what I'm afraid of.
Lying and sitting, 'here', in the earth and in front of the screen,
my double-existence. Death
a thing that only the living can grasp
and imperfectly, as befits the living.
Scene of a fiction. Many fictions.
Each of them a compelling excuse.
© Norman Jope 2007