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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

18 March, 2006

Just Dead

This poem is featured in Esther Morgan's short list for her Poetry Workshop for February in The Guardian UK. The link is here:,,1724956,00.html


So this is what it means to be dead.
Not much to it, save a certain lightness,
a vague nothing to get used to,
with the day an uniform whiteness
and nights not black but reduced to
a nondescript grey, the colour of lead.

But I know that’s wrong, even as I use
the settled nomenclature of the living.
Those quotidian certitudes must yield
to softer lines, an idiom more forgiving
of imprecision: nascent word revealed
in inchoate thing. And so I cruise

in this otherworld where meaning
makes no sense, without a name –
for ghost after all is earthspeak
like all the rest, and it’s not the same;
while time lies still over this bleak
landscape, beyond hope of a greening.

It suits me well, this strange vacuity
of place and purpose, my only quest
being one of definition: for words
are cognates no longer here, at best
fickle fingerposts pointing towards
a fooling spurious continuity.

Reason fails in this uncertain light,
and language gropes with tenuous roots.
And all the fixities that life defined
are no more than extinct truths,
an irrelevant construct of the mind –
and I’m not sure that mind is right.