Island Of The Dead
I halt in the lych-gate's shadow:
Seats where the mourners wait.
One by one the coffins followed.
Those forbears now themselves are dead
And others take their place
First dressed in black and then in wood.
Of the two worlds inside out I think:
Outside traffic rushes past
My head is spinning as I pause on the brink.
This levelled field where no human grows,
Just overgrown grass
But no blankets can warm these sleeping rows.
These barracks where none can be roused,
No early morning call
Of spring's rejuvinating plough.
Some have done their country service,
Riddled as they fell
Now still, as then, no longer nervous.
I stray into a forgotten corner
And meet an evil scowl
A stranger here but no mourners.
In shade some sleep the other way
Below a blackened cowl.
Perhaps Life's game they did not play.
Outcast against the churchyard wall
A prison of retaliation
With a black stone veil over it all.
In the middle two carved hands shake
-to make up for what they did unmake?
No godly reference; just 'In Memoriam'
And rows of names
To send to Hell's great crematorium
And stabbed by Time's remorseless finger
Illegible, explanatory stains.
With these departed I do not linger.
Perplexedly I steal away
To the newer, short-cut parts
And a brightly populated day.
Here the buried still remembered
In living relatives' hearts;
Here to them tears still surrendered.
The shiny pots bear fresh-picked flowers
And inscriptions there
Are watered by the red-eyed showers.
North, South, East and West
All graves share
The worst directions with the best.
The mowers' strimmer does envigour
A well-kept border,
Cutting off Victorian rigour
That I passed away from just back there
With its starchy order,
Excessive decorum and want of care.
Again I pause, at the newer gate
Everything is loud and hectic
Going nowhere far too late:
Lorry by lorry and car by car
Stuck in rush hour traffic.
I wonder if we've come too far.
You're at the bottom!