After life

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bodkin
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After life

Post by bodkin » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:21 pm

Hi all,

Not necessarily looking for serious critique here.

A friend of ours died recently, and I felt I had to write something as part of coming to terms with it.

So then I had to show it to somebody before it would really be 'finished', so here it is...

Ian

--

After life

I

Everybody stands as the dead man enters,
even the tiny, old lady, whose struggle up
will end only when we sit. The coffin bearer's feet,
in straight, black, ceremonial trousers,
pause-step forward -- the simplest possible motion,
like a Terry Gilliam cartoon.

II

New Orleans jazz walks slowly behind.
Jazz bands can't do the missing man formation,
but they would if they could.

The music, strangely, is undiminished --
improvisation is like that -- other parts
grow to fill the gap,

and I see them clearly,
with passing passings, keeping the beat
as more components fail,

adapting, regrouping, rescoring,
like some amazing piece of military hardware
all the way down to one-man band.

III

He smoked for years
in the face of the doctor's plain-spoken advice;
only gave it up for a couple of months,
maybe three at most; and was killed by asbestos
from we don't know where, maybe over there
-- waves vaguely towards the Middle East in the '70s.

IV

The undertakers have a trolley,
covered with a deep-green cloth,
a trolley all the same
and they place the coffin there
and they place two wreaths on top
and do not think of him in the box
and do not think of the box in the flames.

V

I remember I did not know the house.
I parked too far down the street and walked,
case, music, coat and scarf; all the way up
in January's melting snow

nearly eight years ago
with my second-hand, Christmas clarinet.
I did not know him yet, but he made tea
-- always tea --
tested the instrument, pronounced it fine,
if I hadn't achieved that pure clarinet tone.

VI

The vicar describes him
sneaking out for a cigarette
during the liturgy, and telling jokes
that will long be repeated,
if not in church.

VII

Suddenly it is over;
not knowing whether
to meet the eye of the widow;
putting five pounds in the box
for Macmillan Cancer Support
and realising afterwards
that it should have been twenty,
which was what he charged an hour
-- I can go down the pub now --
well below the going rate.

VIII

Days later I will play
a medium-hard piece from a book
I did not open before and catch myself,
sharply, on the idea of showing him.

IX

I hate that we cannot jot
DC al coda
in pencil
above the last bar.

The world will never be
quite the same,
but the woman crossing
the main-road junction
hasn't noticed --
and that was that.

X

fine
Last edited by bodkin on Wed Dec 07, 2011 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Arian
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Re: After life

Post by Arian » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:41 pm

It gives a nice sense of the man and the occasion, Ian, and steers nicely clear of sentimentalism. Some nice irony, too (such as smoking/asbestos). I think IV is my favourite sequence.

As you're not looking for serious crit, I'll leave it there.

Cheers
peter

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Re: After life

Post by ray miller » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:20 am

It's a fine poem, "enjoyed" it. 1V was my favourite also.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: After life

Post by bodkin » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:37 pm

Thanks guys,

actually I don't mind getting some critique, I didn't really know what to say when I wrote that, but I guess the point is that it is about a real event, so there's no point suggesting changing or dropping any of the details...

Ian

p.s. I guess I should put his name in an epigram?
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Re: After life

Post by JohnLott » Wed Dec 07, 2011 6:56 pm

Thanks for sharing this Ian.
I understand and respect what you are doing.

J.
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Re: After life

Post by David » Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:07 pm

Nice, Ian. V - even missing an "even"? - and the first half of IX stand out for me. Especially the first half of IX. That's a very fine (oh Jeez, absolutely no pun intended) and apposite sentiment.

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Re: After life

Post by twoleftfeet » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:01 pm

Excellent, Ian - I can't think of anything to crit (but it would be churlish so to do, in any case).

#2 stands out for me.
Instead of just sitting on the fence - why not stand in the middle of the road?

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Re: After life

Post by bodkin » Thu Dec 08, 2011 9:54 pm

Thanks both,

I think II is my favourite also, although I think IV is probably better, I just think there are enough Jazz Band <-> military hardware comparisons going on in the world...

Ian
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Re: After life

Post by brianedwards » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:47 pm

IV is perhaps the strongest sequence, but this for me stands out:

I hate that we cannot jot
DC al coda
in pencil
above the last bar.


Powerful lines. A fine tribute Ian.

B.

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Re: After life

Post by bodkin » Sun Dec 11, 2011 10:47 am

Thank you Brian!

I think I could lose a slew of commas from S1... but it gets hard to edit when it is rather personal, like this. You cannot separate good poetic judgement from things you know have to be said a certain way...

Thanks all,

Ian
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