"I didnae ken!": A Scotsman being hit by a pie: Adam Cuerden, 2008
Death, you’re more successful than America,
even if we don’t choose to join you, we do.
I’ve just become aware of this conscription
where no one’s marble doesn’t come up;
no use carving your name on a tree, exchanging vows
or not treading on the cracks for luck
where there’s no statistical anomalies at all
& you know not the day nor the hour, or even if you do
timor mortis conturbat me. No doubt we’d
think this in a plunging jet & the black box recorder
would note each individual, unavailing scream
but what gets me is how compulsory it is --
‘he never was a joiner’ they wrote on his tomb.
At least bingeing becomes heroic & I can see
why the Victorians
so loved drawn-out death-bed scenes:
huddled before our beautiful century, they knew
what first night nerves were all about.
Zeus: Portrait of a God (Portrait of John Forbes): Ken Searle, n.d.; photo by Watters Gallery Sydney (via Jacket 3, April 1998)
John Forbes: photo by John Tranter, 20 July 1990 (via Jacket 3, April 1998)
John Forbes (1950-1998): Death, an Ode, from The Stunned Mullet, 1988