A Dying Song

‘The hills are alive’ he sang every day as he dressed,
until he was breathless and pumped full of drugs. In the end
his heart couldn’t cope – perhaps it was all for the best.

He carried on working and lived with habitual zest –
tenacious of life, he’d never call illness a friend.
‘The hills are alive’ he sang every day as he dressed.

Decked out in his suit for the office, who could have guessed
he was ill, or how ill he was? He didn’t intend
his heart to give up – they say it was all for the best.

Bewildered and hopeful, he underwent all kinds of test –
he was so disappointed to learn that a liver won’t mend.
‘The hills are alive’ he sang every day as he dressed.

In the hospice the rabbi said ‘Death is like sailing off west’ –
he made it sound easy, as though one could send
him away with a wave, saying ‘It’s all for the best.’

He battled each phase of disease but wasn’t impressed
by doctors’ vague words – he’d rather they didn’t pretend.
‘The hills are alive’ he sang every day as he dressed –
his heart couldn’t cope, and I won’t say it’s all for the best.

 

©Virginia Rounding, 1994

First published in Iota 34, 1996

Annunciation

Marie had sex with Arthur once in Bow.
The doctor spoke. He prophesied a birth.
Friends tried to cheer her up: you never know,

Your Arthur might be back some time – although
Who cares? There’s other men, there’s not a dearth.
Marie had sex with Arthur once in Bow.

She wondered why she fell for such a toe-
Rag. What a jerk! she chuntered without mirth.
Friends tried to cheer her up: you never know,

Your Mum’s upset right now, but may not throw
You out – and clothes exist for wider girth.
Marie had sex with Arthur once in Bow.

No angel helped Marie, nor did the glow
Of pregnancy do much for her self-worth.
Friends tried to cheer her up: you never know,

Perhaps you’ll have a famous child who’ll show
Us how to live, who’ll help to save the earth.
Marie had sex with Arthur once in Bow.
Friends tried to cheer her up: you never know.

 

©Virginia Rounding, 1992