Writing a Funeral Poem

One of the hardest challenges of being a writer is the pressure of improving or adding to something that already exists.

I have always wanted to write a funeral poem that best represents my feelings about death but avoids the almost unavoidable cliché and tries not to repeat what many others have already said on the subject.

When a friend of mine died a couple of years ago I decided I would write him something. It would be personal and accessible. I hoped it would also be quite beautiful. To be read at his funeral or anyone’s.

I didn’t manage it.

Months later I re-discovered a letter written to my aunt by a friend of hers. He was dying and wrote to tell her that he would never see her again. It was both sad and beautiful. It was goodbye. It was evaluative. It was poignant. The final phrase he used was “Think of me sometimes”and I remember instantly being struck by that.

I played about with the phrase for a few weeks and at the same time I was looking for a way to finish my book. I used a similar line.

Remember me Sometimes.

It took many hours of editing and rewriting before I was happy with the poem. It is a simple poem with simple imagery. A simple goodbye.

 

From Parhelion

 

It is too quick: this life.

But in this rush to live

should we not tend to soft goodbyes

remember me sometimes

 

and I will be there.

It may be brief:

in signatures of grass after the rain,

or the trades of light when a sunset ends.

 

The moon and sun are friends

that come and go daily.

 

So when it is time, please think of me

Somewhere by the plane’s threaded line

put my voice to these words

and remember me sometimes.

 

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December

You punish me with guilt

as we stumble through silence

and flooded fields.

My bandaged pride

humbled by a stile,

feet puzzled by the mud,

as we follow bruises of horseshoes

to the stream.

 

The sky is as blanched

as your face.

Shards of branch lie snapped,

by a stream

that cuts through houses.

 

We pause for a runner

sewing the bushes,

white sleeved with cotton legs.

Two men pass,

speed and disappear

into the stem of their breath.

 

We come to one last stile

where you let me help you

and the cloud cracks for a moment,

and our hands briefly forgive

Waterway Ballet

The seconds coast

unchoreographed.

Time’s respite

through narrowing waters,

creeping shadows

the reflections of light.

 

the reflections of light.

A break from being hurried

the alliteration of currents

mystery of ripples

by-standing nettles

jetties and webbed branches

 

bask in gravelly sunlight.

Pebbled beams

tease the water’s skin.

We coast past the emerald graft

of moss over logs, lost

to the rhythm of unraveling water

 

A cluster of calm

stagnant locks

staccato of pond skaters

summon the mud from waters

palpitations of rain

on memorial benches by fenced-off copses.

 

The echo under bridges

under bridges

 

the sludge of footpath mud

stuck soles.

Under the bloat of a fattening moon

by tight clouds that fasten into night.

The Vow

(For Sian)

 

When I give you my name

Let love and blood bind,

For wise eyes see we are the same

Of heart, of soul, of mind.

 

When I give you my life

Let clouds be sure that rain is rare

When love longs for the sun, you my wife

Are the sun, with sun-touched hair.

 

When I give you my future

Be sure that mine and yours are bound

Unexplained by science or alchemy; this pure

Love, rarely lost but rarer found.