The coffin kept changing its colour.
In the snug - for the wake - it was a dark mahogany
but as the bearers lifted it, I saw it turn to honey.
Out in the street, it was more like oak,
but winding our way to the chapel gate -
the chapel on the hill - I wondered:
could this be his ultimate joke?
or had he another, perhaps, up his shroud?
Well, I'd known, I suppose, the answer to that all along.
I was right: as the coffin was carefully set on its bier:
PING! it went, PING! Very loud, very clear.
LIFT-OFF that was, for a chrome coffin nail. Straight up!
Into orbit, no doubt, no messing about. Soon followed: the rest...
PING! PING! PING! PING! (Though each to its different note.)
It took me a while to fall-in (there were a large number of nails):
the tune was his numero one: Cabaret.
I looked round the chapel, but only to see
they all were still serious - looking at me! I took off the grin.
Had I imagined it? Maybe dropped off? Dreamed the whole thing?
Almost missed his voice? Recorded back when?
No way of knowing... Dark one as ever he was. Just listen!
There's never a spark
'till the mind grows quite dark
Like sods in the fields where the fork has been,
the dead will turn
and the animals scrape them clean.
I hopes you're laughing,
'coz while you're laughing
I'm happily passing away.
Then when at last the cortege formed again,
and took the path to the steep stone steps
that lead down to the beach,
the bearers whispered together
(I heard them as we went)
how the coffin grew heavier step by step.
They rested it then - at his request - on the lichen-covered rock,
his feet towards the sea - just touching it.
We watched the coffin turn a cobalt blue, then we were off again,
back up the steps, but now to open ground, the coffin black as jet.
And that's about the end of what I can tell,
the rest of what happened taking place - dissolving, I should say -
in desultory rain that washed each new trace from my memory.
His life and mine had run in parallel
but now they merged into a single, clear solution
which I have yet to filter through the net of night.
Like oceanic rise and fall, I felt breath leaving me
to cloud the day as if it was ice cold.
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