Since the Poets’ Graves tour, a lot of the poems I’ve been working on have been about death. This one is no exception. Like all my Wednesday poems, it’s a work in progress.
3 Ideas For Modern Funerals
The crematorium is made up like a courtroom
The coffin propped in the dock
A judge calls friends and family to the witness stand
Where they list minor grievances against the deceased:
‘Andrew makes insipid, yellowy cups of tea and never offered biscuits.’
‘Andrew is a slow walker.’
‘If Andrew senses he is losing at Risk, he will play the rest of the campaign
With a surly indifference that shames both him and his troops.’
‘One time, in the car, The Lighthouse Family came on the radio
And I caught Andrew surreptitiously singing along.
He knew all the words.’
In the public gallery, mourners gasp at each revelation.
At last, the judge turns to the jury box.
‘Have you reached a verdict?’
‘We have, your honour,’ then, as one, starting in a whisper:
BURN HIM! BURN HIM!
The whole room rising in a frenzy, the judge slamming his gavel
In time to the chanting, throats raw with volume and feeling
As mourners surge forward to heave the coffin onto their shoulders
And thrust it onto the await conveyor belt,
Pounding the lid with their fists as it rolls through the butcher’s curtain
Into the flames,
Spit and yells and tears
The crematorium is made up like a spaceship
Channelling the grimy, neo-industrial bulkheads and rivets of Alien
Or the sleek minimalism of Star Trek
Either way, it is obvious something bad has happened
Dry ice hisses from instrument panels
The crew stand in grim silence, some weeping
The dog-collared captain speaks:
‘How long till the hull loses structural integrity?’
‘10 minutes captain,’ says an engineer, voice shaking
Like an asteroid falling through the troposphere.
The captain nods gravely. ‘Then we must decide
Who amongst us gets to use…
The escape pod.’ His palm slams against the coffin,
A masterwork of chrome and coloured LEDs.
‘I vote for Andrew,’ says an ensign.
‘He was really kind to me after my Mum died.’
‘Yes, Andrew,’ says the ship’s doctor.
‘Remember the time he got drunk and locked himself out
And fell through the roof of his conservatory? Legend.’
One by one, the crew all nominate Andrew.
The captain nods. ‘Make it so.’
Crewmates load the escape pod into the launch tunnel,
And as Andrew slowly rolls through the airlock towards safety
The crematorium is made up like a waiting room in a train station
Mourners sit facing each other on rows of stiff plastic seats
Reading newspapers, swiping phones
The coffin enters on a conveyor belt, a miniature train carriage
Lined with tinted glass, mourners stir and rise,
then, over the tannoy, a nasal voice announces:
‘We are sorry to announce that the 4:30 service has been cancelled
Owing to the fact that the train is full.’
Mourners line up to berate a guard dressed in black:
‘I have to get that train! I’m supposed to be playing
5-a-side with my best friend, Andrew.’
‘I’m sorry sir. It’s full.’
‘Please. I’m heading home for Christmas with my Dad,
Andrew. This will be the first one we’ve missed.’
‘I’m sorry miss. It’s full.’
The angry, disappointed, solemn crowd watch
As the coffin pulls away, black glass flashing
As it enters a tunnel. Then:
‘All services are cancelled for the rest of the day
Owing to a fire in the southbound tunnel.’
Mourners flow out of the waiting room,
Stunned and grateful at their narrow escape.
‘Thank God we never caught that train,’ they say,
The autumn sun winking through a gauze of smoke.
Want to read poems I’ve actually edited an worked on? Buy my debut collection, Pub Stuntman, by way of proof.
You can also download my album of spoken word and sweet music. It’s called Jesus Buys Me Cigarettes.