A New (old) Poem Concerning Life and Death

Still Life, With Mirror

(After Joel-Peter Witkin)


I saw something awful today:

a severed foot,


with five steel nails,

positioned in front

of a silvered piece of glass.


I could not see the blood,

it was a corpse-piece,

there was nothing to flow,

but I could watch the ragged muscle

end, the place where the bone emerged,

white-grey, from the flaccid base,


and I was disturbed. It was, at first,

almost like looking at an

arrangement of flowers,

odd, hard blossoms

from an earth-going vase.

I could tell that it was human,


past tense. And was

it the transformation

that cut off my breath?

The sudden shift from

appendage to ornament?

Or was it the knowledge


that this is something death

could be: no chorus, no reunion

of voices, but simply, through the act

of dissolution, becoming something,

to suck away

the sacred breath.



About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on December 15, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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