Thursday, 21 January 2021

The Significance of Birds


Death comes in threes

she says solemnly as if somehow

mere utterance of these words

will cause the Sword of Damocles

to hang teetering, teetering over the head

of some soon-to-be-dead    unfortunate.


We do Last Offices;

lay him on the purest whitest sheet. 

First stage (Clinical),

turn him and he groans

as last air expels from lungs

and watch horrified

as blood spills in rivers through 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 his family,

leave them to their grieving. 


My best friend wants me to lay her out I say

as we both drained,

clutch at warming coffee cups.


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]


An oldie shared with the good folk at dVerse OLN, hosted by the lovely Sanaa.  Cheers Sanaa!

Also shared at PSU's Poetry Pantry hosted by the lovely Rosemary.  Cheers Rosemary!

Image:  Courtesy of Flickr "Crows" by In Memoriam: Mr. Ducke is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


Sanaa Rizvi said...

This.. in every sense of the word.. is Poetry! Such excellent flow, rhythm, and tone. You describe the significance of birds and their association so beautifully. I had to pause in the middle of the poem as I was overcome by emotion. Thank you so much for sharing.

Cheers Anna!💝💝

JadeLi said...

Anna, I feel like this poem is the follow-up to the one I did recently about the death of the undertaker's daughter. Such a difficult job to do. If you deal with death all day as a business, a little superstition is bound to sneak in from time to time. Yikes! That tapping bird is truly unnerving!

Ingrid said...

Beautifully written and entirely spine-chilling. I like the direct way you deal with the physicality of death here. A memorable poem!

Jane Dougherty said...

Ah! This is a good one. Death is an ugly business and we stay clear of it as much as we can, leaving it to 'professionals'. The birds don't care though who lays out the corpse, or what the corpse would have to say about it. Do they portend anything? I doubt it, never know.

indybev said...

An outstanding poem sure to linger in the mind of the reader. The birds are perfect additions to the clinical portrayal. Absolutely brilliant!

Jason said...

A wonderful poem, I love the mix of mundane and supernatural and the "caw caw caw(pse)" well done! / peace, Jason

Kim M. Russell said...

Apologies for reading and commenting late, but after the live OLN, I was so tired, and we had the electrician in yesterday to sort out the heating – there is still none in the study or dining room! Your perspective on death is down to earth but also dark, Anna, going places others would not go, and reminds me a little of the television series ‘Six Feet Under’, one of my favourite programmes of all time, especially when the dead body asks, ‘Can you now understand my pain?’ I remember an ex-student of mine telling us she wanted to be an undertaker and the shock in other teachers’ faces when I said it was an admirable, caring profession. I love the ending with the crow.

ADDY said...

You have such a talented way of conjuring up the scene. I can imagine this is happening all over the country right now. In fact all over the world.

Ron. Lavalette said...

Don't know how/why i failed to comment (ie rave positively) on this fine work earlier. sorry. Awesome work indeed. My Pantry offering's death-related, too, this cold morning. Thanks for sharing.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Thanks for the greeting, lovely Anna!

A fascinating piece indeed, with all its layers. It rings utterly true, and I love it.

Helen said...

This is immense ~~ in every conceivable way. Brava.

Hazel said...

Whoaw. It's an hour to midnight in my part of the world, and I am not sure how not to dream of this. Beautiful. Morbid. Brilliant.

Rommy said...

The matter-of-factness of tone while presenting such vivid and intimate details makes this a striking piece. I like how it feels like both a story and a window into deeper speculation about death.

colleen Looseleaf said...

Wow. Powerful. I remember when we took the life support of my brother it felt like taking Jesus down from the cross. I love hearing the words of the body in this poem.

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

How vividly you describe the cleansing of a dead body after death, and how chillingly you introduce the caw of the raven! There is more to life than we suppose, more to death than meets the eye. Hidden things matter.

Gillena Cox said...

What brilliant poetry. There is no time for reading sadness into this piece. Just awe of the craft.
Luv the word play "(caw)pse
Happy Sunday. Thanks for dropping by my blog today


Jenna said...

<3 <3

Magaly Guerrero said...

Superstition can be very silly. Until it happens to us in ways that turns silly into totally creepy.

Also, your poem made me want to go back to read Gabriel García Márquez's "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World".

robkistner said...

Oh Anna — that hits with impact. Certainly more to fate than meets the eye. Well written!

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

Anna, This is just so beautifully written--the flow is wonderful and the story is chilling--

Brother Ollie said...

Impressive piece - had me thinking deeply.

dsnake1 said...

i like the details in the poem about preparing the corpse. i remembered some contractors i worked with described how they once worked on the dead GIs from the Vietnam war, and i marveled at their nerve.
the poem is dark, but a very good read. awesome work!

Merril D. Smith said...

Wow--this is a wonderful poem! The dispassionate tone of laying out the body contrasts with the crow sightings. I can imagine one would wonder at omens.

Brother Ollie said...

I cycled back to this piece - I really dig the imagery...that sword of Damocles is concerning.

Friko said...

Maybe you shivered, but so did I.
A poem for our times with death increased manifold and pain stalking the land.

Old Egg said...

I do agree this is a great poem. The inevitability of death should make us all aware of living our lives to the full as we have lots of sleep to look forward to.

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