Bruce Beaver

(14 Februrary 1928 - 17 February 2004 / New South Wales / Australia)

Death's Directives (I) - Poem by Bruce Beaver

When life was all about me
like a constraining womb
I wrote poems about death.
I did not call them death poems
but thought they were all about life
in extremis, life as an agony.

Now at the end of winter
death seems to be everywhere,
in the brown and grey of dead leaves
in the dull and unscintillating glare
of the midday river’s surface,
in the heavy smells from a nearby factory,
even in the stormtrooper’s strut and stance
of a foraging magpie,
the awkward rigor of an excreting dog.

So many sights and smells
even a sound or two
of TV commercials
and the feeling of frost in the toes
and the back of the neck,
my wife’s cold nose and my own
cold, pen pushing fingers —

So many ciphers of the year’s
dead end that will not
in a week or two transform itself
for September’s sake but will hold off
for as long as it can from celebrations
of sneeze inducing pollen,
the clashing colour schemes of new
blossom, the pallid blue of warmer
skies, the faintly honeyed air,
the paraphernalia of spring.

Not life or death, just the first kicks
of continuity. So that now,
still surrounded by death —
death of this, death of that,
fly shells in the window groove,
beattle shells among the brown leaves;
death of these, death of those,
5000 in the Philippines earth quake,
3 children in an Ulster family —
I write madly about life.

In another month it will be on
again, the girls will stop hugging their cold
tits, the boys denim flies
will be bulging, the little kids
here and everywhere else
on the continent will be rolling
around in clover grass and on
the warming asphalt. Dogs, cats
and birds will go madder than usual
about their courting. Everything
and everyone will come alive
until summer burns or sulks
its way through the wreckage of
December and everyone celebrates
the birthday of the king of life,
death notwithstanding.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 30, 2012

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