Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Significance of Birds


Man and The Moon, 1990, Andrew Wyeth

Death comes in threes
she says solemnly as if somehow
mere utterance of these words
will cause the Sword of Damocles
to hang teetering, teeter over the head
of some soon-to-be-dead   unfortunate.

We do Last Offices;
lay him on the whitest purest sheet.
First stage (Clinical),
turn him and he groans
as last air expels from lungs
and watch horrified
as blood spills in rivers from his lips. 
Can you now understand my pain?
his dead body asks.

We lay him prostrate
as if in reverence to his God
and cleanse all that is corporeal,
gently pull his legs apart
and place padded pants. 
Oh the indignity of death
his dead body oozes.

Second stage (Aesthetics),
he now supine gazes
with unseeing eyes
as we again wash away his life,
trim brows and beard,
anoint him with essential oils,
dress him in his Sunday best. 
I am at rest now his dead body whispers,
I am ready and we usher in the family.

My best friend wants me to lay her out
I say as we both drained,                                                                      
clutch at warming coffee cup.

Y’know she says      
on my way into work today
there were magpies, four strutting confident.
Four for death.
Do you think…?

Just as I mean to tell her
she is stupid I see crow
and catch my breath as
he tap tap taps    upon the window.

Caw, caw, caw(pse) he advises
as he views me with his beady eyes
and one not prone to superstition,
nevertheless, a chill shivers down my spine.

Anna :o]

The above is the result of Tess's  prompt of the naked man and is also shared at the Poetry Pantry – hope you like it!


TALON said...

This was haunting and beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I love the reference to magpies and crows. And I agree with Talon...haunting write.

Mary said...

You have written about death in such a natural and matter of fact, yet caring, way. Yes, I agree it is haunting. And the crows at the end?? One does wonder sometimes about the significance of such things.....and hope there will be nothing more.

Vandana Sharma said...

death is inevitable truth of this world

Tess Kincaid said...

Interesting how it comes in sets of three...beautiful write...

Brian Miller said...

have you ever prepared a body? its a sacred and haunting thing, cleaning the dead, one last care given them in their final moment...if they could handle it i would have a friend lay me out...knowing they would do it with love....interesting on our superstition with threes as well...

Magaly Guerrero said...

Fun. I think Poe is grinning somewhere ;-)

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

This is a hauntingly beautiful piece--one that lingers

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Wow, what a story! It made me remember how the blood ran from my mother's mouth as she died. Yes, the indignity of death.......well captured here, along with how we continue with the normal things, like drinking coffee, through them all to hang onto normality. Great write!

Anonymous said...

This is gorgeous, haunting is a perfect word.You have done an amazing job Anna =)

Berowne said...

"It is the caws, it is the caws, oh my soul!" (Othello}

martine said...

Very atmospheric tale. thanks for sharing

izzy said...

Yup we can be superstitious and it often does go in 3's! Good -

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Disturbing and well written.

Madeleine Begun Kane

Anonymous said...

there are times the best of us can cave to superstition - and this poem definitely felt like one of those times... nice, reading with bated breath

SaraV said...

You had me captivated, pulled in and wondering where are we going? Love how you pulled me back to present day and then superstitions beautifully done :-)

Mama Zen said...

I love it! Beautiful work.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anna .. it's about a year ago my mother died - and I read your words with care and compassion ...

I love the reference to threes - it seems to work that way and then the magpies and crows .. the caw caw to the world ...

The crow of death ... very interesting to read .. and you've pulled the whole together so so well ..

I love the image too .. Hilary

Mishla M said...

Your amazing. Such a visceral prose. You've broken it all down to the bones.

Trellissimo said...

This is allusive and quite disturbing. Great write.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

"Oh the indignity of death..." Indeed.

Anonymous said...

Amazing write. Well done. Tigerbrite

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh, scary and creepy, Anna. And yet, as always, memorable. What a wonderful and powerful poet you are.

Leovi said...

Yes, poem about death very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Chilling and kind of like a train wreck in that you can't tear your eyes away. You definitely sucked me in and made me love it. Super piece.

Kutamun said...

Corvinus the crow, so portentous .... Why are we so terrified of death in the west , is it because nobody has ever survived it ? Cheers Anna

dsnake1 said...

an interesting response to the prompt. :)

in my culture, crows are ominous creatures too, but personally, i don't see it this way.

Donetta Sifford said...

This is lovely and very powerful. Captivating. I love the adding of the crows, very solemn, in a caring poem.

R.K. Garon said...


Anonymous said...

The prompt is up if you are around and available =) I have missed you, I hope all is well

Jyoti Mishra said...

and cleanse all that is corporeal,
gently pull his legs apart
and place padded pants.
Oh the indignity of death
his dead body oozes.

just Wow.
that's all I can comment.. Beautiful

Kalyan Panja said...

beautiful words....lovely lines!!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

This was powerful and beautiful. I read it twice. Hauntingly beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I saw on Heidi's blog that you had a birthday recently. Happy Birthday Anna =)

Amrit Sinha said...

I m not superstitious, but the closing lines were chilling.