The Afterlife

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)