A WALK THROUGH A GRAVEYARD

You walk through a graveyard

On a grey autumn morning

Graves surround you

Some are smooth and made of stone

Others are simply raised mounds of sand

Some have large tombstones with crosses and angels

While others contain nothing but a simple plaque

Some are well-maintained with fresh flowers

Their colour out of place in the grey landscape

Others lie forgotten in the shadows of trees

Concrete cracking and tombstone rusting

You look at the name on the grave

First name Anna or George or John

Surname Norrish or Padoga or Jones

You try to imagine a face and personality

Blue eyes or brown?

Blonde hair or black?

Bubbly or shy?

What country did they come from?

What sort of house did they live in?

What was their family like?

What was their favourite food?

What did they think about death?

You look at the age on the grave

35- a life cut short

13 hours- how cruel is fate

91- an admirable age

Stillborn- didn't even get a chance

16- the same age as me

You wonder how they died

Accidentally?

Old age?

Disease?

Suicide?

But above all, did they know?

You look at the date of death

Some of these people never had to hear about the World Wars

Others never used a mobile or a computer or watched TV

April 19, 1949- exactly 55 years ago today

July 30, 1998- I wonder what I was doing that day

May 11, 1987- the day I was born

Was it sunny or raining on 28 December, 1973?

1912, 1962, 1899, 1982, 1930, 1877, 1959

And the oldest grave- 1862

How does the body look like 20 years after death?

64 years?

142 years?

You look at these graves and you realise

One day, you will join all these people

I, who sit and write this poem in 2004

Will one day be decaying beneath the ground

And I wonder what my grave will look like

Will it be remembered or lie forgotten?

What will people associate with my name?

At what age will death claim me?

How will my life end?

What date of death will be etched on my tombstone?

What events will I never live to see?

So many questions that only death can answer

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I visited my fifth graveyard while in the country (then my sixth after this poem was written). After the initial sadness passed, I felt somewhat fascinated. Why? Because it felt like I was walking through time. And doing that raises questions. Which is why this poem was written. This probably all sounds very macabre and indeed, this is probably the most morbid thing I've ever written. But visiting cemeteries tends to do that to you!