13 February 2010

The Funeral

The Funeral
“'Crossing is not as hard as you might think.'
I had not thought that it would be like this.”

I waited outside the Norman country church
with the pallbearers, standing under the yew trees
unwarmed by the low sun, chilled by the hoar frost.

Stamping their feet on the frozen ground
their breath hanging on the wintry breeze,
they paid me no attention;  I ached with cold.

They shouldered the heavy, oak coffin
slow marched step by deliberate step, knees
bent to enter under the ancient stone arch.  

I went with them, hoping to slip in
but as they paused in the doorway
the crowd of heads turned to stare,

Reproachful, tearful.  I made slow process
Down the aisle to the sole empty place
Reserved for me.

Words of welcome from the priest; a hymn
half-sung half-mumbled, a poem, a eulogy
from a friend described a man I did not know.

Another mangled hymn, the blessing,
we filed out into the bitter morning gathered
in supportive groups around the grave.

I watched from afar.  I had already departed.