I wouldn’t be saying this if you were here; You’d probably talk again about the sight Of terns alighting and assembling there Out on the point, compare your imminent flight To their long navigation of the night; Had you not finally lived yourself to a standstill, Did we not now gather at the white, The hilarious, scribbled white of your coffin, and mill Like gulls arriving hungry at the landfill. For a year or so, I suppose, soon after your lungs And liver had found themselves on the calling-round Of the cancer, and your legs had just begun Their own campaign against the gaining ground Of gravity, you raged and railed and found A fallen forest branch from which you pared That staff, became a mad Moses bound For the mountain’s shrouded summit, where You’d cut a deal the rest of us could share. Failing to scale the heights required to trade At such a level, you turned your eyes from the peak, Then cussed your way to us back down the unmade Road. No more prophet vowing to break The timbers in the door of divinity and leak The contents to the waiting room below; Instead, a softer strategy to sneak Round into that other place through the slow Decomposition of the self from stern to bow. And so we watched – there was no other choice – And waited while you acted the tactic out: The rough whisper took residence in your voice, Making a confidence from an intended shout. Your once big bones now found themselves without The swagger of their cladding, ribbing the air Like the beams of a sand-locked hulk about To dissappear below the land. And there, In your expanded eyes, the knowing stare Of plain audacity. We reminisced About your battle thirty years before, And how it was you very nearly pissed Your whole life down the wall, and how the war With alcohol went twenty years or more; It took you with its flame-hands by the neck, This strange alliance of flood and fire which poured Only to parch, and floated only to wreck, And laid you out on your own self’s lowest deck. Rising back from that, you seemed to say, Made any other after-lives a breeze. On the Sunday, towards the middle of the day, You muttered something about the need to seize The fire, the one which eradicates all these Stains of coloured glass from the white radiance. We listened hard but missed the rest; the trees Leaned over towards us in a chance Gust of wind that caused the leaves to dance Briefly against the glass, and freeze. Eventually, We heard a breath go looping in but then Stopping, like a pulled thread snagging. We Waited for the motion to start again In just the way it always had done when Nudged along by your large insistent heart. We all exhaled but you. I heard Amen. I think I felt impressed by the sheer art Of bringing off your most demanding part. Here we stand in what you called this squalid Squatted property, this illusory state Of stone and scalding tears and too un-solid Flesh while you, presumably, went straight Into the proper light of your real estate, And are even now regaling Jung With evidence of his rightness, and your great Role in the triumph of Spiritus Contra Spiritum, Your staring out the blaze to kingdom come. Off into the heat your body goes, Flowers and all. The motored curtain draws. Silence again, like just before your shows. And then this sound, the first smacks of applause. It grows and swells and spreads and turns to roars. Believe me, this was wholly unrehearsed. And next the calls for more, and now encores, While you, so bashful now, have gone head-first To the fire for which you really had such thirst. What were we crying for, in the absence Of one last, positively final bow? Were we expecting you to recondense Your form from dust to demonstrate how It’s done, and smile, and say “That’s all for now.” ? Or were we calling for the more we find, Or hope to find, beyond the immediate brow, Along the interior way that has still to wind? Or did we just wail at being left behind? I might be back in the room from which you passed, Sheet-anchored to the bed, proudly foundering. Summer leaves eavesdrop against the glass, Taking inventory of the various things Piled here by memory: plastic-armoured kings, High-hung velvet drapes of mauve and mange, Magic, self-surrender, shadows, wings. The sound of the neighbouring room comes into range. We hear the noise of nothing, and find it strange.