The Afterlife

By Roy Fisher b. 1930 Roy Fisher
I’ve lived within half a mile of it
for twenty years. West
by the black iron weather-hen
half-strangled with clematis
on the garage roof
I can locate it. Past a low ridge
in the cliff face of a limestone dale
there’s a cave in the bushes.
When the old tigers
were long since gone, leaving their
teeth, the valley people
would climb there with the dead
they thought most useful;
push them well in,
take them out again,
walk them around:
‘They’re coming! They’re coming’
            We Malagasies love
            our second burials.
            We hire a band that comes
            in a van. Again
            with liquefaction almost done
            we hold our cherished ones
            in our arms. From the grave-clothes
            they fall in gobbets as dog-food
            falls from the can. We wrap them
            in fresh dry linen. They
            bless our lives with their happiness.
Walk them around the valley. Drop
here a finger
for the god that is a rat or a raven,
here a metatarsal
to set under the hearth for luck.
And what was luck?
The afterlife back then
was fairly long:
nothing demented like for ever,
nothing military. The afterlife
would come to the party.

Roy Fisher, “The Afterlife” from Selected Poems, published by Flood Editions. Copyright © 2010 by Roy Fisher. Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd. (Great Britain).

Source: Selected Poems (Flood Editions, 2010)

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Poet Roy Fisher b. 1930


Subjects Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse


British poet and jazz musician Roy Fisher was raised in Birmingham, England, and educated at Birmingham University. Describing Fisher’s exploratory, Modernist-influenced poetic style in a review of his Selected Poems for Poetry, poet Daisy Fried noted: “Sometimes prose, sometimes lineated, they are dense except when they aren’t, restless except when still, improvisational in feel inside a kind of nonce formal rigor.” Fisher . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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