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> Poetry & Prose > Poetry & Prose Online > Jonathon Marley > On Epitaphs

On Epitaphs


Do you remember when we toured those doleful graveyards,

Scaring ourselves with the evanescence of this life,

Searching for secrets in stone etched in eternity,

In the warnings of heroes retired from the battle?

We sat there in sombreness, awaiting revelation,

Mouthing inscription as if incantation,

And mourning as Wilde said that outcasts always would.



And do you remember the sadness that swiftly set in,

As we dismissed Franklin's tales of a second edition,

Reluctantly accepting our expiry date unknown,

And dreading the day of reckoning in the distance?

You gripped my hand as if it was your sole protector,

Whispering between tears, 'There's so much death in this life,

And now I'm even drained of hope for life in death'.



But do you remember the comfort that we finally found,

Surrounded by death and its valuable victims,

Feeling like Schliemann and Calvert when their paths converged,

In possession of vital clues to our existence?

We stumbled and fell in our eagerness to take in,

And then sat there, marvelling at the scale of death,

While planning our escape like starry-eyed criminals.



And do you remember the pact that we made, plotting there,

To fight tirelessly for life, with steel true and blade straight,

Spurred on by that awful image of our names writ in water,

To sacrifice all to stem our deft dissolution?

We wrote out our aims and tactics, terse like a charter,

And signed away our lives with flourish reckless and bold,

Revelling in our new-found complicity.



Well our best intentions so often inspire false starts,

As they mislead us; not with our heads but with our hearts.



Our names are writ in water; this much, at least, is true,

But fire is no match for the forces of immersion,

And passion has not the stamina for the fight.

A tireless fight will end in the tears of poor grievers,

For resistance must be patient and rational.

No amount of zeal can escape mortality's pull,

For life is a marathon that we will always lose.



So here's a different pact for the two of us to make,

Based on hard-learnt lessons and hindsight thrown on youth;

To accept death's presence as no opposite to life,

To enjoy this life with little thought for the end,

Not to fling ourselves wildly towards unvanquished death,

But to soak up that eroding liquid as best we can,

And then to go down peacefully when it wins at last.


> Poetry & Prose > Poetry & Prose Online > Jonathon Marley > On Epitaphs
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