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.