Thinking about death…


In the moment that the air solidifies to aspic,
gelatinous and clear, and you are suspended like an olive in it,
held between the leap and plummet while the Jeepney
sends its old gears stuttering to a halt,
you have time to contemplate death.

When Gilgamesh sought Utnapishtim at the end of the earth
(the literal end, where time never landed)
the living mummy stroked his beard
and mouthed his words around halves of a broken kola nut.

The life that you are seeking you will never find.
When the gods created man they allotted to him death,
but life they retained in their own keeping.
You shall eat dust.

All the hero fled with was the story.

You have never heard of Samaria,
of Wild Men who feast on mud,
of gods or the hero-kings who serve them.
At seven years old you are flying through air,
three inches from the bullet.

The age of reason has struck at last,
its shock wave spreading like a knife through raw liver,
the colour and texture of the flesh which streaks from the shoulder
of the sack-dressed woman who loved you enough
to thrust you from your seat on the over-crowded bench.

One minute she was stroking your hair,
murmuring over the odd light colour.
Then there was air.

Even this aspic cannot suspend you;
the mass of all this gathered death is not greater than your own.
You sink, and hit the boards resonating
with the thump and shudder of tires over limbs.

Your wide brown eyes are a centimetre
from the oval rainbow
of a single lost fish scale
which swells to encompass your world.

Hell is but a House of Dust and mud is all that fills the hunger.
This is the taste which you hold in your mouth
while the stench of cold sweat plugs your nostrils,
the sweetish rot which seeps
from the ancient pores of the farmer
who let his new-bought chickens fly
to cage your weak body in his shield of bones.

He breathes his scant white beard into his mouth
and gnaws the rough strands.
In the vein-pulse of the rib-racked chest against your cheek
you can feel his heart improbably beating.

The secret of life comes through his heart,
the story you gained from this terrible sinking.
When the gods created man they allotted to him death.
Your life they retained in their own keeping.
In time, you shall be dust.


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 November 14, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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