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The pallbearer

July 15, 2017

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling,
but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes,
but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end. – John Donne

The bell falls quiet; the horses’ shoes collide
with cobbles; music floats; the priest appears.
we measure off our height in equal pairs,
absorb the coffin’s weight and, eyes downcast,
in tentative half-march, proceed inside.

June’s brightness filters limpid through stained glass
into a cool obscurity. Song climbs
from choir to fill the space, and all combines
in Dean Donne’s Equal Music, Equal Light,
to ease us, leaving but two questions at the last.

What makes a well-lived life good, in our sight?
The mourners praise her as a wife, her art,
the way she raised her children, her kind heart.
Was that enough, how do we set the bar?
Had she done more, might they still more delight?

And what is left of us, when what we are
dissolves? A pigeon perches in the beams,
and causes quite a stir, her soul it seems
ascending – mumbo jumbo, surely: wings
as apt to rouse, as raise her to a star.

The vicar sprinkles holy water, sings
the final phrases as his curate swings
the censer, then we shoulder her again.
I’d swear she’s lighter now than when we came –
not by the weight of her departed flame –
but since to pray together strengthens us within.

(Published in the Kent & Sussex Poetry Folio, 2015)

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