Roy Ernest Ballard
Alan Baxter's Funeral - Poem by Roy Ernest Ballard
I'm over-dressed, the only one in black
except the undertakers. How absurd!
Black as a crow. Black tie, black suit, black mac,
black shoes and socks although the shirt is white.
I see that black is never blacker quite
than when it's painted on a paler bird,
a penguin say. If I could have a word
with Alan in the gleaming, flowered hearse
he'd surely tell that he'd have preferred
(just for a laugh and not to be perverse)
the company of penguins when interred
in place of mourners and the District Nurse.
Complacent in its new, red brick and oak
the chapel gets through eighty dead a week.
I wonder at the soaring, solid tower…
of course, a chimney! 'You go up in smoke'
I hear him say (this was his sort of joke) .
The priest's a stranger, he has half an hour
'Change and decay in all around I see'
and now I have a tear upon my cheek.
The priest has called him 'Her' instead of 'He'.
Our lives are beads upon a rosary
and death unstrings us all, bead after bead.
Pews of relations sing 'Abide with me'
without conviction, frowning as they read.
A little blonde girl cries into her hat;
no costly monument can equal that.
He gained no glories and he won no prize,
his only worth is measured by her eyes.
So farewell Alan. Well done and three cheers;
what higher honour than a maiden's tears?
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