Body Count (For Graham Rust) - Poem by Godfrey Rust
Before it suffers this last act
let’s take the inventory.
Start with the hair. Well, that’s the giveaway.
Once thick and black, then dragged
back to a silver ponytail, at last
short-bearded, grizzled white, below
the family’s regulation gleaming dome.
Eyes. There are two, closed now
on all his visions, though they once
might hold the gaze of any room.
Lips. Also two, that framed so many words
or met neatly, always prepared
to spread into a smile.
Torso, clean and streamlined
just like his advertising, sharply defined
just like his wit.
Hands, only a couple, though you’d think
he’d had a toolbox full of them
for everything he made,
meticulous, at times astonishing.
Private parts – well, it’s best to keep
some things under wraps, except to say
everything must have been
in excellent condition, judging
by results: two sons, grandchildren
each carrying a different brilliance
from their random share of his genetic code.
Feet. Ten long toes, beautiful enough to kiss,
his wife would say, yet always
restless to be elsewhere, walking away
from finished work to shake up something new.
Skin. Just enough to hold it all together, smooth,
almost translucent at the end; and underneath –
the contradictions of the blood,
thinned or congealing by competing remedies,
stilled now in the veins.
Lungs. Two, that pumped unnoticed in and out
a half a billion times, but lately
had laboured like a pair of broken bellows,
damaged beyond repair.
And heart? Yes, of course –
just one, never in doubt; and how strange
to find it still intact when it
was shared out with so many for so long.
The count’s complete. It’s done its job,
letting him down at last, as they all do.
As we despatch this carcass, loved once
but empty and unneeded now, it’s true
the man we knew will live on, bodiless,
in some weak senses – in memory,
in artefact, in DNA; but if
we’re faithful to our sciences we’ll say
it would be foolish to presume there’s nothing more,
knowing we’ll never prove the negative; and if
we’re faithful to a risen Christ, we’ll say
there’s more to hope for here than there's to mourn.
This body, all too real today, soon
will be only ash in air; this husband,
father, brother, uncle, grandfather –
known to us in all his personality
is now more real in spirit than material,
freed now from flesh and bone – no body now,
yet someone still, and certainly
will never die again.
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