Poetry

An Old Theme

Derek Mahon

I shall die in due course on a day of rain.
Not in the last bed by the exit, please,
with a loud sitcom on the gogglebox
but in an armchair during a sunshower
reading something favored by old crocks
(gossip, philosophy, perhaps Schopenhauer,
the bit where he says nature doesn’t care
about individuals, only about the species).
Off I’ll go to the glue factory then.

I shall die soon enough on a cloudy night
not quietly but furious at the outrage,
kicking and screaming as the lights go out.
Never mind; contributing my own calcium
to the world soup with rosemary, sage
and thyme, I will have time to come
to terms with the elemental afterlife –
grimly, of course, if not without relief.

We shall meet again by the shore at high tide
swimming together noisily for a minute
or know each other in a thick cloud
of dust at a bus stop before dispersing –
drops and specks of that vast entity
“the seminal substance of the universe”:
new lives, the range of options infinite.


Derek Mahon is a poet and translator. He is author of many collections, including Harbour Lights, Somewhere the Wave, Life on Earth, and An Autumn Wind. New Selected Poems was published in 2016, and last year he published the collection Against the Clock. He lives in Ireland.
Originally published:
April 1, 2019

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