A month ago, just as we were all remembering VE Day, I was sent a wartime photo by Lisa, a cousin, of her grandfather. Derek was a fabulous man – a people person, fond of children and easy in his manner with everyone. This poem was loosely inspired by him…
At three a.m. wakefulness can seem a judgement.
In darkness, with owlhoots and wild, nameless
animal cries for company; am back at my uncle’s funeral
and before – whisky poured, he turned to ask his wife
of forty-four years what’s your poison,
turned back, dropped crumpled to the floor.
The paramedic, a family friend, blubbed plump tears,
said it’s a good death, a good way to go,
that he’d be much missed, a glass-half-full bloke,
whose face swims before me, misty, detail
coarsened, then falls back. So on, treading water,
to where I’ve buried scraps from his funeral. I peel
back the feeling, words said, readings, voices,
Jim Reeves somehow fitting. How they closed
the rainwashed pewter roads in that little town,
chapel filled, they filled the porch, trampled sodden grass
outside to hear his sending off broadcast, crackling out.
They’d come to pay or show respect, the size
of the hole he’d leave, its shape and depth
measurable in that place he’d never left,
would never leave. Had never seen the need.