The Lid

By Geoff Page b. 1940 Geoff Page
The story keeps on coming back,
a man my father knew,
that grazier across the river
up north a mile or two,
 
a story that my father spun
to last me all my life
of how a man should not behave
when burying a wife.
 
All through the funeral he’d wept . . .
the priest there going on
about St Peter and the gates
through which his wife had gone.
 
His sobbing at the grave, Dad found,
was harder still to bear.
Then men in suits, the women in
the best they had to wear
 
knew deeper down it couldn’t pass,
no matter who had died.
Extravagance like this was always
better kept inside.
 
At last the man who sent his beasts
to die on Tuesday gave
one final, high unseemly cry
and leapt into the grave.
 
‘Mate,’ he yelled. ‘Don’t go. Don’t go!’
And scrabbled at the wood.
A friend reached in to fish him out
as any Christian would.
 
The women in their hats stood back.
Two men jumped in the trench
and skidding on the polished lid
contrived at last to wrench
 
him out and lead him to his car.
The clergyman intoned
‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’
They heard the broken moans
 
coming from a side window.
He hammered at the wheel.
‘Mate,’ he yelled. ‘Don’t leave me mate.’
Not knowing what to feel,
 
the mourners now were drifting off
towards their dusty cars.
My father always finished here
as if he’d gone too far.
 
But I could hear the slamming doors,
the hearse without much chrome
and duel decisions made to miss
the wake and head straight home.
 
‘Mate, oh mate!’ the man had cried,
releasing all their fears.
The sound of boots on coffin wood
survives them down the years.

Geoff Page, “The Lid” text from Small Town Memorials, University of Queensland Press, 1975; audio from Coffee with Miles, Audio CD, 2009: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 1975, 2009 by Geoff Page.

Source: Small Town Memorials (Picaro Press, 1975)

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Poet Geoff Page b. 1940

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects Living, Death, Marriage & Companionship, Sorrow & Grieving, Christianity

Occasions Funerals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Australian poet, novelist, editor, and biographer Geoff Page was born in Grafton, on the north coast of New South Wales, and educated at the University of New England. His poems frequently make use of rhyme and meter as they explore faith and cultural memory. Page is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including Small Town Memorials (1975), Selected Poems (1991), and Seriatim (2007). He is the author of the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Marriage & Companionship, Sorrow & Grieving, Christianity

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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