This took me to a poem I wrote years ago, after the death of my husband.
Dydd Gwyl Dewi 1984
Watching them dig the bodies from the mass grave
In Africa, or Central America, or wherever,
The poison of political brutality is nurtured
By those who flaunt their freedom as a flag and emblem -
The jagged underside of a mold that is permitted
Only to fit a part of the world.
The rest must pay in their own blood.
Their fear-weaned wretchedness the mulch
For our comfort and innocence.
Or pulled from the pitiless breast of the sea
That they thought to make sport on,
Sailing, innocent, where they will,
The world their playground -
Invulnerable they. Now struck down
By a spiteful, untimely gale.
They learned not to toy with the Goddess
As we all learn. No escape.
Watching them, plasticine bodies squashed out of shape,
Ungainly, undramatic lumps of clay.
Their features, once so familiar to mothers, wives,
Now meat, become part of the cycle
Of the world’s turning of growth and decay.
But not yet clay or dust, not yet returned.
How much better is death portrayed in art,
The stiff-jawed gunman stalking his prey,
The lingering camera’s gaze at the spattered bullet-holes,
And the amazed, up-turned eyes.
Or young Jane’s friend, dying beside her while she slept,
The white flesh cold and sanctified already before she knew.
Our gaze lingers, not turns away.
The pathos of poetry tumbling, bubbling from our lips,
The brute flesh already turned to pure emotion,
Meaning ready-made for this commonest event.
Why then did his fragrance, his warmth linger so in the bed,
After the strangers had been and gone with their black bag
And their long car?
How then did his life slip from him so quietly that
I looked up, startled, aware suddenly,
But not believing.
Where was the drama and the ugliness?
Each known feature of his unchanged