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Sunday, 4 January 2009

And Death Shall Have No Dominion


Like autumn leaves
we change our colours when we die.
That's all we ever were:
a change of colour on a canvas ground,
one small fleck of difference
on an otherwise flat field
in a desert
of indifference.
Here death
is the death of all
the smudge of detail,
the erosion
of the figure by the ground.
Death is the perfect decorator,
a broad-brushed artisan
for whom the wall assumes
a perfect matt, flat hue.


lamplit and dying,
old men enjoying
the moonlight,
not expecting tomorrow.

Laughing they hang there,
fondling their age-old loved ones
under the branches,
hushing their rustling
into a silent cold morning.

lamplit and flying,
old men defying

Noisy with laughter,
shaking with lust
and hurrying after
a world that is dying,
moths straying
into a flame.

lamplit and trying,
old men in a rage
against time.

Freedom at last,
freed by the breeze
to chevy and be
free to explore this moonlit wonder,
free to flee to be trodden under.


Poetikat said...


I like both of these poems - I read them a few times. I especially liked these lines:
"That's all we ever were:
a change of colour on a canvas ground."
"the smudge of detail,
the erosion
of the figure by the ground."
- really clarifies how insignificant our lives are in the scheme of things.

The second poem is the one I prefer. It is wistful - I love the use of the words: fondling and fawning and the repetition of the "ying" (dying, flying and trying). It's a truly memorable piece.

Interesting how you ultimately assign the leaves their freedom, only to be squashed underfoot.


Totalfeckineejit said...

Good poems Dave,with a little nod (or two) to Dylan Thomas.'And death shall have no dominion' reminded me of a poem I read recently (and I can't for the life of me remember where, but I'll keep looking)that mentioned a breed of fish that flashes the most amazing colours in death.Apparently people used to kill it for the entertainment, such was the spectacle.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love both of these but oarticularly the first one - I read it several times - it resonates and strikes a chord.

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Very nicely written, Dave. I, too,
am drawn to the first one. But, I like this from the second "old men in a rage against time." Not a man am I, but I can relate:)

Anonymous said...

I think I've read you saying a weekend newspaper can last you best part of a week, well your posts can be a little like that for me! These recent poems touched me especially for it's the first anniversary of the premature death of John O'Donohue, who like millions I didn't know personally, but whose words and wisdom (Anam Cara & Benedictus especially) graced and blessed all who connected somehow with what he was about, whether Christian or like me, not.

Anonymous said...

Here is part of the one your poems made me think of, and posted variously on blogs remembering John and how he addressed death with people he spent time with and for himself. Contrasting perspectives no doubt -;

'May there be some beautiful surprise
Waiting for you inside death
Something you never knew or felt,
Which with one simple touch
Absolves you of all loneliness and loss,
As you quicken within the embrace
For which your soul was eternally made.

'May your heart be speechless
At the sight of the truth
Of all your belief had hoped,
Your heart breathless
In the light and lightness
Where each and every thing
Is at last its true self
Within that serene belonging
That dwells beside us
On the other side
Of what we see.'

From a Blessing in ‘Benedictus’ by John O’Donohue

maeve63 said...

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake, so forgive me but at first I thought the post was one poem. It wasn't until I read the comments that I realized it was two. That said, it makes much more sense to me now. I kept re-reading thinking that I had missed a connection somewhere. Once I understood I went back and re-read the poems as two distinct entities. Now, while it did present a clearer picture for me; I still find it rather fasinating that the two could be read as one, not that I'm suggesting they should be combined. I like them as two, I just thought it was kind of neat. K...that said and my rambling done; I think I favor the first one. I like them both but the image that was built with death as an artist was very strong, and so wins out in my mind. - Nice work.

Lyn said...

Being an artist, the "ground" is where I etch. God and Durer similarly. The ground is receptive, and sometime errors can be hidden or corrected. But the art is what matters!
"Old men defying"....YES!
Your poems definitely produce poetic reactions! Thank you.

Jeanne said...

These are lovely -- you have such an ear for cadence ("hushing their rustling")and for metaphor (like Poetikat, I'm really taken by canvas analogy).

I'm humbled that you enjoy the Chronicles because I don't have the ear for language that's required to write really well. That you so clearly do, and still like my scribblings, is high praise.

Carl said...

As an artist I am drawn to the first poem's imagery, but the second blows me away at sometimes melancholy and others almost playful which is correct since we are all heading to our own unique demise we all bring different attitudes to it.

Many thanks for bringing this otherwise visual person so firmly into the world of words. Not sure I am ready to try my hand at exposing my soul as words on paper. as a painter and photographer I can hide behind my subjects and my chosen medium. I find writers and poets to be the bravest artists of them all.


Cloudia said...

Poignient Joyfullness, a difficult feat indeed, achieved in these 2 poems . . . . . I am beginning to love poetry again - thank you for being part of that, Dave! Aloha-

Elizabeth said...

Touching, melancholy and not a little triste - with a twist of humour.
Good to find poems abroad in Blogland.

Linda Sue said...

Dave- You wrote these???!!!I must fall down and kiss the hem of your garment! The first one actually sent me into a sort of coma- it is so wonederful, Thank you!


These are both strong poems, Dave. They are solid in form with a beautiful wave of imagery flowing within. I must read more of your works.

Tumblewords: said...

These are such powerful and poignant pieces. The chill of ending wraps the words and yet hope waits in the wings. Lovely. Lovely.

willow said...

Both absolutely wonderful. I was especially drawn to this bit:

"Leaves lamplit and trying, old men in a rage against time."

Dominic Rivron said...

Particularly like the first one - especially the last four lines.

It reminded me of something I saw on TV: a strangely moving and respectful tour of a research centre in the US which studies what happens to human bodies after death. People donate their bodies and they are left in all sorts of situations in the centre grounds to see what happens to them. One, I seem to remember (though the mind plays tricks), was left under a pile of leaves. The information they gather has many obvious uses.

Anonymous said...

Whilst I found the first of these almost unbearably sad, the second had a lilt and whimsicality. I loved the way you played with the rhymes - 'dying'/'flying'/'trying. You seem to be on a roll or do you always write this well?

Shadow said...

'in a rage against time' beautifully said! rings a bell with me...

great writing. the pictures pop into my head as i read them.

Dave King said...

Coming to you first because I have (I hope) fixed the confusion I caused - not you! I should have made the headings more distinctive, as I hope I have now done. Will pick up other points later. Apologies.

Anonymous said...


Dave King said...

Thanks for that. The last lines of the second poem were the first to be written. They were the ones that just floated into my head.

'And death shall have no dominion' came to me as I was looking for a title for the post rather than either of the poems.

Weaver of Grass
It begins to look (from the briefest of skims through the comments) as though, contrary to my expectations, the first is bidding to be the better liked. Thanks for the feedback.

Every Photo Tells a Story
"Man" wasn't meant to be gender-restricting. I just needed a single syllable.

I think I said that Saturday's paper lasts me all weekend - though if they go up much more I shall have to think about it lasting all week!
I have come across John O’Donohue's work, I am sure, but do not know it well enough to comment. Must put that right. Thanks for the feedback.

As I said earlier, it was nothing to do with you being slow on the uptake. I didn't make it clear. I guess it was also that they both started with a mention of leaves (one autumn leaves, the other leaves dying).

Thanks for that. You mention God and Durer. In my first draft I had God and the artist. Interesting...

Thanks. Your remarks are both useful and interesting. As to your writing... there are more ways of killing a cat... to resort to cliche! Poetry doesn't have to be all music and metaphor. I do very much enjoy my visits to your blog.

As one who definitely started out as a painter/photographer , I can relate to your remarks. I did always have an interest in words, and still have my feelings for the visual world, but a slight tremor of the arm is pushing me increasingly towards the joys of writing.

Saying that reminds me why I persist with my blogging. Thanks muchly!

Thanks for that. It is much what I had intended, so very welcome to hear.

Linda Sue
Now, now, don't get carried away! Thanks, though.

Susan Sonnen
A wave of imagery... what a fascinating phrase. Great compliment.

Many thanks for such kind words gratefully received.

A nod towards Dylan, I suppose. I had been going to write race against time but rage usurped race.

That is an extremely interesting comment, for which much thanks. I could imagine all sorts of stories, poems and novels being inspired by that research center.

Wow! How do I answer that question? It's like the "How often to you beat your wife?" inquiry. I do get your meaning, though (I think!) and I thank you for it.

That is a really moving tribute. Thanks.

Know what you mean!!!

Bee said...

These graceful poems have put me in a strange mood -- or, rather, echoed a mood that was already strange. Last night I had a very detailed dream about an old man (94, I think) who used to be our neighbor. I had taken him out in a canoe, and he had slipped into the water. I pulled him out, and dried him off, and put him into flannel pajamas -- but his already wizened body kept shrinking . . . until he slipped away. It was very graphic; very real. I watched his last laboured breaths. Something about the physical diminishment (which does happen as we age, of course -- but was so exaggerated in my dream) reminds me so much of what you are getting at in your first poem. That imagery - a speck of colour, of difference -- reduced to the flat, matt hue. It is a rather gentle way of describing what seems so terrible to me!

The Grandpa said...

Very nicely done, Dave. Both poems are moving and thought provoking. I think I like the first one best because of its abstractness and the strength of such images as a canvas ground.

soulbrush said...

both are fantastic..thanks for your visit. hugs.

Dave King said...

What an incredible dream! I do agree that there is a good deal of correspondence between what appeas to be the message of the gream (if you allow that dreams do, indeed, have messages) and what I was trying to get at. I think your dream will pop into my mind on occasions for a bit. Thanks for sharing it.

The Grandpa
Yes, it looks like the first dream has it. I am really quite surprised, but a little chuffed as the second dream was written rather a long time ago (though redrafted - all but rewritten - recently) and the first is a very recent effort. Nice to know I'm not going backwards yet!

And thanks for that.

mansuetude said...

These two are so closely connected in thought -- i feel they are talking in the same tongue;

love this~

one small fleck of difference on an otherwise flat field
in a desert of indifference.Here death is the death of all dissimilarity, the smudge of detail,the erosion of the figure by the ground.

we are all the same light, and yes, a small smudge of difference--which we think is so vast (in our inner psychological idea of separation)...


walk2write said...

Well, I will dare to be different and admit to liking the second one more. It reminds me of my favorite Shakespearean sonnet: That time of year thou mayest in me behold/When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,/Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang,/In me thou see'st the twilight of such day.... Love intensifies ("rages against time") as the season of life reaches its terminus.

Jenn said...

David I just noticed you were following my blog so I figured it would be nice to check yours out too! Thanks for following me, I am so returning the favor, your writing is amazing! Your prose is so visual in these two poems. I am looking forward to reading through your previous posts as well and look forward to reading more! Nice to meet you :)

deola said...

Wow! these are lovely poems! I love your writings

J. C. said...

Simply beautiful Dave. I guess these poems were made in an instant, in a very powerful moment when we are blessed with art paying us a visit. You used that moment, quite obviously.

Crafty Green Poet said...

these are both beautiful poems but the first one is wonderful, there's something about the way you've used words and their sounds and the layout really adds to the sense of the poem,

Lucas said...

I like both these poems for their rhythm, sound and clarity of imagery. For me, the second one just takes the lead, as it pulls together so many different qualities of the leaves and the rustling suggestiveness of "old men" rebels in the face of time. There is a Baudelairian quality to the closing lines.

Kelly said...

beatiful, dave.

Andrea said...

You have such an incredible way of using the English language...extremely vivid and captivating! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

Jim Murdoch said...

The second poem is the better of the two. I like the last four lines in the first poem. Personally I'd salvage them because they almost work on their own.

The third part of the second poem seems a bit of a stretch. I'd suggest cutting it but there's good stuff in it. Not sure. Maybe it'll grow on me. I get the feeling that it would read well aloud. The poem as a whole I mean.

Sweet Talking Guy.. said...

Dead good, both! Death seems to be the thing this New Year...

Dave King said...

Thanks for that. Yes, you are right, though the difference in the scale of things inward and outward is enormous at times.

I'm grateful - chuffed that the second has had a vote cast in its favour, though I'd not expected it to be mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare!

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by to comment. Enjoyed your blog.

Thanks for thos kind words.

You are correct so far as the first poem is concerned. However, the second is a rewrite of a poem written a good while ago. It has had a few redrafts.

Crafty Green Poet
It is the one I prefer, though I had not expected it to be the more popular. I find it difficult to judge, though, feeling that maybe the second one has been a little over-worked.

I see the point of the Baudelairian reference, though it had not struck me until you pointed it out. Thanks for the comments.

Thanks for that.

And my thanks for your comments.

Some interesting points you raise, particularly the one concerning the last four lines of the first poem. I'll have a chew on them - the suggestions, I mean, not the lines.

Sweet Talking Guy
Didn't mean to add to the body count, but know what you mean!

Derrick said...

Hi Dave,

Here I am, once again at the 'coo's tail'!

Both poems are excellent. I have read them several times and find lines in both that are equally moving, thought provoking. Can't choose one over the other.

McGuire said...

'Death is the perfect decorator'

Love this line, despite its morbidity. I have never really thought of autumn as 'the colour of death' even 'the palette of death.'

Interesting thought, a rather sombre collection, a dark night of the soul, perhaps?

Sombre in a strangely beautiful way. I have the image of all the orange yellow and ocre hues of decomposing leaves.

rachael said...

Beautiful, so glad I found you, some beautiful stuff here! :)

Dick said...

So much has already been said that I'll simply add my praise and appreciation and state that I liked the first one in particular. The sustained metaphor is skilfully worked and the perspective on death is direct, honest and calm. Very fine indeed.

Dave King said...

And very welcome too -
at any point in the coo!

Much appreciated.

I have always though Autumn strangely beautiful, and very nostalgic. My two favourite seasons have always been Autumn and Spring - if you press me, in that order. The three words, Like autumn leaves, were the last words of that poem to be written. I had thought it finished, but then, on impulse, added them as a first line.

Thanks for commenting.

My thanks as always. Your comments are always helpful and very much appreciated.

swiss said...

i see fsr too many actual dead people to be bothering much with a lot of the poetry about it but you've hit the mark here dave. nicely played.

Dave King said...

An intriguing comment, but one that makes your compliment seem all the more real. My thanks for it.

Beloved Dreamer said...

Dave, so glad you stopped by. I just love your site and work. Your poems are filled with powerful meaning and images. Well done my friend.


mansuetude said...

perhaps in some small way, that distance between the *inward and outward* is a place the poet lays himself down; to use his life and words as bridge between... to help the others too, to cross.

thanks for making me think.

Anonymous said...

Mr. King,

You, Sir, are indeed a fine poet & I shall, with your kind permission, return to re-visit the pages of your fine journal in the near future.

I am, &c.
Colonel Brandon.
Nature Diary

Dave King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave King said...

Beloved Dreamer
Welcome and many thanks for dropping by.

I think so, yes, in many instances it is something like that. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

Colonel Brandon
Welcome indeed and many thanks for taking the time and trouble to comment. Hope to see you agai.

William Soule said...

There is a fimiliarity with those two poems I think readers can relate to. I like!

Anonymous said...

These poems remind me of my painting "Autumn Walk" posted 22 November. Just as the poems reflects on the insignificance of mankind, my painting depicts a human figure that is overshadowed by the natural beauty that surrounds him. Thanks for visiting my blog Dave.

Jennifer said...

I am speechless...

The second one will haunt me throughout the day.

Dave King said...

Apologies for being so tardy with the replies. Amtrying to catch up!

Welcome to my blog and many thanks for taking the time to comment.

Enjoyed my visit. Thanks for returning it. Will go have a look at your painting.

Welcome and many thanks,

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