Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! D E A T H - Poem by Michael Shepherd

Well we don’t know do we?

You asked me to write something
about it and I said,
I have nothing to say…
maybe that’s a better place to start.

So should we keep a curtained silence
about it? Stuff cottonwool in that wound
that never quite heals, once made?

Or run down the street, knocking bang bang at all the doors,
shouting tell me about death… and
before that stranger knocks at your own door
and the face is strangely familiar, as if
you’ve been expecting someone, but
weren’t sure what they’d look like…

One thing is certain, in its breezy way:
you’ll be the one who knows least about it
when it happens; but hopefully
the one who knows most about it
after it’s happened…

We could be rather Irish about it,
say, it’s a crying pity you’ll be missing
the wake… but look at it this way,
the funeral won’t cost you a penny…

I’m told that the other day,
a friend of a friend said
whoopee I’m going on holiday…
I guess that would have made for
a rather merrier funeral

as we say now, no dear not a funeral,
a celebration of her life…

but there’s still that moment
of awful mediocrity, when
the coffin begins to move, and it’s half,
this is it, and half, we’re doing this
with discreet good taste, so
you don’t have to notice it… ha…

Then, some like to know beforehand what
they hope just might be known,
visit comfy mediums to ask about
those loved ones who’ve just passed over, is it, dear? …

they make it sound like a well-run care home:
it’s really very nice here, you’ll like it…
they sound as if they’re still wearing
the woollie that you knitted, and it’s tea cups chinking
and a chat about old times.

For the truly religious, of course,
it’s glory day, and so it should:
they’ve made the will, cleaned the house,
given away all that they’ve collected over the years,
said goodbyes; mopped all the tears;
the bags are packed and waiting in the hall,
their conscience clear. This is the moment
when what it’s all about, is what it’s all about..
envy them – their soul is clean, shriven was the old word for it,
their lifetime has been but a preparation,
a walk from one pure spring of grace
to a glorious river full of grace..

so here’s a suggestion: in your mind,
bring together all you’ve loved in all your life –
teddy bear, dolls, kittens, puppies, horses,
maybe even parents… best friends, lovers,
strangers who were unexpectedly kind to you,
friends you hope you’ll never lose,
places that you were forever happy in,
times of happiness that you’ll never forget,
and those strange moments when
you knew you knew something just so great,
but didn’t know exactly what it was you knew…
those moments when time stood still, and
didn't seem to matter any more, because
the where and when that you were in, was forever..

then add to this, all you’ve been, should be
grateful for; all the things you would have praised
more loudly; everyone, but everyone, you love; see
the world as full of wonders unexplained;
see glory everywhere, and yourself
the centre of all that…

stay there.. then what is Death – apart
from what will surely be – compared
to all that glory which is your true self…
go on, admit it… me, I see it shine in you…
what shines in your eternally young eyes
is something that can never die…

Maybe we’ll talk of this some more,
now that we’ve tried to talk about it…

you asked me; this is the best that I can do;
you asked me; this, with all my love, for you..


[A poem written by request]


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, November 8, 2007

Poem Edited: Saturday, April 23, 2011


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