A Humanist Funeral Rap

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ray miller
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A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by ray miller » Fri Apr 25, 2008 8:14 pm

This is meant as a token of filial affection,
I hope it isn't taken in another direction.
All these sat down sad frowns ain't what's wanted
talking on tiptoe like the place was haunted!
He paid no heed to the creed of spirit and ghost,
there's just us - just once - and you have to make the most...
I had words to be telling but how could they be spoken?
My tears would be welling up my voice would be broken.
So I asked for the Humanist to read this address,
I'd be careful to avoid using God and Bless
'cause to have this poem humanely dispatched
it must pass the censor without hiccup or catch.
Could I write of heaven and life hereafter?
I felt like the bloke in that book by Kafka
on trial for offences that weren't made explicit
and in fear that the secular police might visit.
Caught between the God Squad and Richard Dawkins!
Be empowered not a coward and do your own talking!
Your very first gig as a performance poet
at your old man's funeral so let's not blow it!
Stage fright can be calmed if you wear a disguise
so I've put on this hat and covered my eyes.
I've read these lines a thousand times to try and get it
free of all the pain like an anaesthetic.
I thought what if we share, make it a family affair
then it's not just me all alone up there.
I figured some time during the funeral service
before the old man's body was thrown in the furnace
my brothers and I could perform this rap
with me at the front and my brothers at the back
joining in at the end of each line with a shout!
They could clap their hands and dance about!
They could point their fingers with emphasis!
Don't worry boys, these are only fantasies!
It ain't gonna happen for a million pounds,
it's just a vision in my head that won't lie down.
An enduring image, as they say on The Fast Show,
it might have been a blast but the moment has passed so...
This has an element of elegy, a little of a litany;
it's about my old man, it's for him it was written, he
decayed for a decade since my mom was in the ground;
he was dying...he was dead...but he wouldn't lie down!
Each time I saw him he'd become more diminished
and he longed for the last night shift to be finished.
His eyes were sunken, his frame was shrunken.
Growing old with dignity? Well, that's just bunkum!
Eighteen hours a day with a mask on gasping,
reliant upon others when he hated asking.
Speaking with that whispering, wheezing sound,
sleeping in his chair 'cause he wouldn't lie down.
But a long time ago you know, he was a giant!
He roared like a lion, he was death defiant!
I remember him lifting us on to his shoulders,
listening to the songs and stories he told us.
Stroking the whiskers sharp on his chin,
the chess games, the arguments that I could never win.
Prising the metal from his working shoes,
The Daily Mirror and the crossword clues.
Saturday afternoons when he backed his losers,
Sunday afternoons when he'd been to the boozer.
The plates of stew and the salmon sandwich,
my mother telling him to mind his language!
Ice in the milk on sugar soaked porridge,
the grief I gave him and never said sorry...
I never said sorry though once I tried!
He waved it away, he brushed it aside,
not with disdain more a matter of pride.
English reserve and stiff upper lip
though on one occasion he let the mask slip.
It were shortly after my mother had died,
he blamed himself, he broke down and cried.
He described how he found her lying on the ground,
how he should have been quicker and had let her down.
I tried to ease his burden, to make it distinct
that life is more of a marathon and less of a sprint.
Twenty years he was there whilst my mom fought cancer,
lived his life on the square and had no case to answer.
But you couldn't tell that to the silly old bugger
and he beat himself up over the death of my mother.
Now let their memories mingle and be tightly bound
some place deep inside where they won't lie down.
Lately my wife was his personal shopper,
I hoovered, changed the bed but couldn't do it proper!
He'd complain and correct me the way that he did
when he was my dad and I was his kid.
That's what I missed most on the morning we found
him dead in his chair 'cause he wouldn't lie down.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by TDF » Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:52 am

not been up long, don't have the brain power to process this long piece yet. But as someone who used to rap himself, I will definitely come back to this one later in the weekend.

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by k-j » Sat Apr 26, 2008 2:25 pm

Hello Ray - this is quality. I'll be happy if Kafka and Dawkins get namechecks when my turn comes. Some great rhymes and the whole thing hangs together really well.
fine words butter no parsnips

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by twoleftfeet » Sat Apr 26, 2008 2:39 pm

I second that.

Thanks for sharing this one with us.
I particularly liked "talking on tiptoe".

Plaudits
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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by Oskar » Sat Apr 26, 2008 3:09 pm

Ray

Mammoth effort! What's more, it's compulsive reading.This is no nonsense and full of personality. I particularly liked your look back at dad when he was healthy and strong
ray miller wrote:But a long time ago you know, he was a giant!
He roared like a lion, he was death defiant!
I remember him lifting us on to his shoulders,
listening to the songs and stories he told us.
Stroking the whiskers sharp on his chin,
the chess games, the arguments that I could never win.
Prising the metal from his working shoes,
The Daily Mirror and the crossword clues.
Saturday afternoons when he backed his losers,
Sunday afternoons when he'd been to the boozer.
The plates of stew and the salmon sandwich,
my mother telling him to mind his language!
I've been to a couple of humanist funerals. The music was good on each occasion but the rest fell a bit flat. Lovely stuff. Thanks for posting.
"This is going to be a damn masterpiece, when I finish dis..." - Poeterry

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by MikeSamford » Sun Apr 27, 2008 1:40 am

Nice rhyme, you have done well. There is a slight forced feel which does not bother me, but will some. I love rhyme and work in it myself from time to time. It is a fun way to write but we understand it is not very commercial or contemporary just a fun thing and you have done a nice job. I would think about easing it some seeing that it is a fourteener If two fourteeners are split into hemistichs to form a quatrain of alternating tetrameter and trimester lines with a rhyme scheme of xbyb, it becomes ballad meter. This will break it from cuplets to ballad and smooth it out for the readers.


This is meant as a token
of filial affection,
I hope it isn't taken
in another direction.

All these sat down sad frowns
ain't what's wanted
talking on tiptoe like
the place was haunted!

He paid no heed to the creed
of spirit and ghost,
there's just us - just once –
and you have to make the most...

I had words to be telling
but how could they be spoken?
My tears would be welling
up my voice would be broken.

So I asked for the Humanist
to read this address,
I'd be careful to avoid
using God and Bless

'cause to have this poem
humanely dispatched
it must pass the censor
without hiccup or catch.

Just a thought!
Hope to help

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by Elphin » Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:04 am

Welcome Ray -a respectable first post in a different format to the usual which is great.

It should stand as it is - it doesn't need line by line crit. Hope you post more

elphin

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by Dublin » Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:11 pm

Quite an interesting and extensive piece. Personally I would have welcomed some more structuring in the form of stanzas. That would make it a bit easier to read although the flow of thoughts that you portray might be better captured by an uninterrupted poem. So maybe you're right in your choice of structure.
You incorporated many nice ideas and lines - given the amount I won't mention all but just these here.

I had words to be telling but how could they be spoken?
My tears would be welling up my voice would be broken.


I've read these lines a thousand times to try and get it
free of all the pain like an anaesthetic.


Stage fright can be calmed if you wear a disguise
so I've put on this hat and covered my eyes.


But a long time ago you know, he was a giant!
He roared like a lion, he was death defiant!


That's just a few, there are really quite a lot! Some quite sentimental, others original and touching. And I'm sure some of the lines are very personal to you relating to past (childhood) experiences, lines I naturally can't relate to but which are very meaningful all the same.

A very good reference to Kafka's book 'The Trial' - I read it a couple of years ago and you did well to incorporate it in your poem.

I really liked the bit with 'he wouldn't lie down' - I always like such recurring motives and it finished the poem up in a very neat fashion.

A few bits of criticism I'd like to venture, though: Personally I didn't like the casual, maybe even sloppy words you chose: bunkum, for example or the don't worry boys. Of course that just my view.
Some rhymes seemed a bit forced and unnatural, others don't work properly (hereafter - Kafka, pounds - down).

On the whole, though, a very nice poem. A bit of cleaning up might make it a bit better to read, but maybe then it would lose its charm and originality. Anyway, well done!!

ray miller
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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by ray miller » Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:21 pm

Thanks for the comments, very helpful and interesting. Don't know whether it is apparent or perhaps blindingly obvious but I did actually read this at my father's funeral, at least a slightly shorter and different version. I did rehearse it endlessly with my children as audience, wore a trilby hat and dark glasses (looked like Van Morrison, apparently) and after a glass of wine and a Valium produced a flawless performance.My only regret is that I was unable to persuade my brothers to be the chorus-that would have been something special, like swearing in church!
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by Ryder » Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:27 pm

Nice one. I've always liked rap but never tried it so just read this out loud...and for some reason started pointing at things. Do poignant things make you do that?

There's an audio section on on this forum, if you'd care to share it.

Nice one.

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Re: A Humanist Funeral Rap

Post by TDF » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:54 pm

Hi ray,

Finally got around to reading this, and enjoyed it by-and-large. Having written a fair bit of rap in my time, I know how hard it is to keep the rhythm and the rhyme, yet also say exactly what you intend to. On the whole I think you managed the balance quite well. However I would have personally liked more half/loose and rhymes and less reversing of sentences to fit the rhyme. As a clear set of emotions/messages, this write is excellent. As rap goes, rhyming just on the end of lines is a bit Fresh Prince. The parts I enjoyed more, and the style I'd like to see more of, is where you have rhymed beginning/mid-line and have used repeating rhyme structures.

a few examples of my feelings:

I had words to be telling but how could they be spoken?
My tears would be welling up my voice would be broken.
- nice repeating rhymes, although this does also seem a bit forced.

This has an element of elegy, a little of a litany;
it's about my old man, it's for him it was written, he
decayed for a decade since my mom was in the ground;
he was dying...he was dead...but he wouldn't lie down!
- easily the best 4 lines for me, rap speaking. Great stuff. If it was all like this, i would have nothing 'constructive' to say, other than to give you props.

That's what I missed most on the morning we found
him dead in his chair 'cause he wouldn't lie down.
- excellent finish, both wrt flow and content. Loved the repeat of wouldn't lie down.


enjoyed this, Ray. Plus kudos for sharing something so personal.... or as a rapper might say: touch.
Tom
meh and bah are wonderful words

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