Dorothy enjoys a funeral

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I walk among the dead

I walk among the dead. Trimmed and untrimmed graves,
symbols I think are Gaelic, and hosts of Guardian Angels,
some with heads lopped off, chipped smocks, shattered wings.
The morning sun flings light across the sea and, to the eye,
each cross is turned to black. Here lie the much beloved
unknown wives, adored fathers, children gone too soon,
vaults and edifices where family feuds subside.
Six mostly intact angels stand beside one pathway.
All their heads are bowed but this one presses flowers
to her belly, this one scatters blossoms from the basket
of her gown, this one's arms are folded on her breasts,
and this one's palms are lightly pressed in prayer.
This one shelters one child, this one two. And on this last,
brown head twitching, a sparrow has momentarily perched.

–Brook Emery

Dorothy enjoys a funeral

The lovely phrases roll off our Vicar's tongue:
all flesh is grass —
isn't it though? Clippings on Val's compost heap,
green and steaming in the rainy times,
brown chaff in a dry summer.
Though worms destroy this body —
the gardener in her liked the thought.

Now her son is buttering parsnips in a eulogy:
Val's generosity, her merry laugh, her cooking.
Awful to think of her lying in that polished box,
plump though somewhat wasted.
It's a mercy, someone's bound to say,
yet tearful Bill may not agree.
Mercy should have operated eighteen months ago,
when we prayed for an end to it all.

The Lord is my shepherd, and next thing we are walking
through the valley of the shadow of death,
Val's death, then it'll be Bill's, and soon enough, my own.

Lo! I tell you a mystery, says the reader,
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet.
Beautiful, especially when sung.
Yet I doubt if she'll enjoy that trumpet blast.
Turn down the volume! she will demand,
and as for being made imperishable,
she didn't believe in stuff like long-life milk.

I couldn't fault the Vicar's homily, except for being bland,
one thing Val was not accused of.
Death, where exactly is thy sting?
The words lull me gently, and the music too:
a grand-daughter playing solo flute,
and we sing Val's favourite hymn,
I heard the voice of Jesus say
Come unto me and rest.
For once, she's resting now.

I gaze at, and through, the stained glass
with Jesus triumphant on the cross.
How odd, Val would say as we did the brass —
the triumph came well after the cross.
Now God is asked to graciously deal with those who mourn.
How could he not? Yet some will resist,
Bill, for example, angry in his tears.

Finally the blessing, May the God of peace ...
the god of death and life and everything else
has not forgotten us, here at All Saints'.
The organ plays a sombre march, as for a Queen.
It's a good funeral, and I can hear Val saying
Better than I deserve, Dorothy.
Quite possibly — she had her faults,
a couple mentioned in the tributes, just for laughs.
But now the hard part: getting on without her.

–Rodney Wetherell


Brook EmeryBrook Emery has published three books of poetry, including and dug my fingers in the sand (FIP 2000), which won the Judith Wright Calanthe Prize for poetry. Individual poems have won the Newcastle Poetry Prize, the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize and the Max Harris Award.

Rodney WetherellRodney Wetherell worked for many years in ABC Radio Drama and Features, and is now a freelance writer. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, Brook Emery, Rodney Wetherell, I Walk Among the Dead, Dorothy Enjoys a Funeral

 

 

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Existing comments

Lovely prose and poetry. Very evocative and moving, on that topic which we so often avoid! Thank you gentlemen.
Kate Maclurcan | 05 July 2011


Loved these pieces. Do keep sending them!
judy brown | 05 July 2011


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