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Poetry Pleases: Surprise

Jane Williams writes an unsentimental poem about death - a poem that will continue to grow in your mind long after you have read the last line.

Coming upon it unexpectedly
Meg discovered death.
She wasn’t looking, stumbled against it,
Was bruised and shocked.
Now she puts her head beneath the coverlet,
Sleeps fitfully, fearful of the ghost
Behind the stirring curtain
Uncertain in the shadowy garden.

Perhaps I could restore the dead to life
Still her anxiety, slow her pulse?

I pass Meg a tissue. She sits puffy-eyed
While the roar of noisy break time ebbs and flows
Around my quiet room.
To break the ice I say, “If everybody lived for ever
There would never be room for all of us.
Your Grandad left to make a place for you.”
We talk for a while about him and her
And then fall silent.
I find I am once again discovering your empty space
The deep silence, the edge of the abyss.

But Meg gives me a watery smile and says,
“Thanks, Miss, you’ve helped.”
“Next week,” I say. “Same time, I’ll be here.”

Now I’m alone I smile wryly at my own unwariness
As very carefully I take a new white tissue from the box.

Wells U3A


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