0082 The New Grave - Poem by Michael Shepherd
You brought your watercolour kit.
For it’s so picturesque – the smallish church
in the centre of the village
like a mother hen at drowsy midday
surrounded by her chicks;
the red-white flag of Saint George
the only sign of life, fluttering like
an aerial footnote to history
(or for some, a corner of a foreign football field…)
but there’s a new detail in the picture
since last you sketched here:
the newest arrival is the oldest: death;
the oldest signifier is the fresh-turned earth.
The uninvited thought squirms across the mind
like the exposed worms of that rich soil,
how reassuring to be buried in this ideal
picture-book of continuity amidst the change,
a country churchyard. A cemetery
has no geography and thus no history
save in the hearts of families;
here, all is reassuring
except to broken hearts which time will heal
all bar the scar.
Already, the bunch of daffodils
in the empty honey jar
have bowed to that same death;
reminding us that graves are spun around
a hundred and forty years of family history:
she’ll remember how she loved her Nan
who died at seventy-something
for all her own seventyish future years.
Rest in peace means something here.
Meanwhile, the daffodils thrive, dotted
among the graves, as unconcerned
as the soft rubber tyres of the hearse
now catching at the Spring’s reaching foliage
as it approaches at a perfectly-judged pace
down Church Lane, returning peace to peace.
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