Thursday, 4 July 2013

S-word in the Sheath

As I grow old(er) I find myself thinking about death more and more often; not morbidly, and I don’t find the prospect too distressing. I guess I am more curious than anything else.

A non-religious person, I don’t believe in any form of life after death in the sense that many people like to imagine it. A lifelong relationship with nature gives me hope that after this winter of my life, spring will come again. 

While I have to confess I remain fearful of pain and try not to think about it, death itself holds no fear for me at all. Yes, I will miss the people, places and things I love most in this life, of course. Poets, no more or less than many if not most of us, are always up for a challenge, and what greater challenge can there be than death? At the same time, I strongly believe in the existence of a posthumous consciousness in the world (yes, ghosts if you like) continuing to make our presence felt wherever and in whomsoever it has made its presence felt during our lifetime.

Incidentally - and unrelated - I would like to thank all those readers who have been in touch to ask about my prostate cancer. Physically, I have a few problems, but the positive thinker in me remains...well, yes, positive as hormone therapy continues to keep my prostate cancer from becoming aggressive.

This poem is a villanelle.


Death, it's just a word,
a poet’s metaphor,
but sheath for a sword

Still, small voice heard
keeping our score,
death, it's just a word

Mistaken for a prey-bird
at heaven's door,
but sheath for a sword

Life' s worst fears stirred,
all love forswore,
death, it's just a word 

Any great victory averred
(denying love's lore)
but sheath for a sword

Love, immortality assured
(it's love rates our score)
death, it's just a word,
but sheath for a sword

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004; 2018

[Note: This poem has been significantly revised since it first appeared in a Poetry Now (Forward Press) anthology, Worldly Words (2004) and subsequently in  A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

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