THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2001

 

Roger Elkin
RITES OF PASSING
 

Not the big sort like the three months’
hospital visiting, the pattern of “how-are-you?”s
and “you-do-look-well”s, old mags, fresh flowers,
sad bags of grapes, flat lucozade, the silent
times with nothing to speak but just feeling good
and being good by being there, or feeling good
and not-so-good by going home, or torn inside by
the “please-take-me-back”s, the pleas

Not the big sort with daily drainings on your
own at home, face drawn pale, hope treadmilling
to despair, mind capitulating to inevitabilities
or pinned on guilt, the “why-me?”s and
“why-couldn’t-it-be-me?”s, the self-pity;
not the private/public grief, the dropping face
that manufactures sympathy, the necessity
of need, of being needed, the charades

And not the very BIG one either:
the Abide-with-me-fast-falls ordeal, or
the kingdom-come-osannah-and-hail-Mary,
the goodbye-dear-coffin-kiss, the public tears;
not the days-weeks-months of awkwardness
not knowing what to say, or not to say,
or if time enough had passed to laugh
or even if you can manage your laugh

No, not these biggish rites, but the little ones:
not the mourning sherry, but the sleek of sheen
on sherry glasses; not the loud wailing,
throat-stopped-hanky-cramming, but the smile,
the touch of hands, the wink in church:
not the coffin but standing at the coffin
noting the rows of pink and white roses
each picked and pleated in ceremonies of wreath

No, not the biggish ones, not these
but the ordinary rites that constitute
the passing grandeur in the wrongs of things.

 
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