Christmas cards - around again            

You don’t send Christmas cards to the dead

making up my list I remember them

wishing to see once more perhaps

their ancient faces telling me their news

or sharing mine, joys, sorrows, past times -


You don't send letters to the dead

though it might help not posting them

after all you can say anything now

remembering that old companionship,

fire-light talk, long walks in mountains,

boggy moors in fading light

tea on a verandah in summer

the warm embrace in a cold bed.


Posting a letter in a crack in a tombstone

the lizards enjoy the feast

no gateway to the underworld there.

In far off caverns steaming

the voices of the dead ascend

as gull cries do over echoing cliffs

no way to climb there

where vapours turn to cloud.


Messages for the dead are not so easily delivered

still-born they need a burial too

aching memories in floating bottles

drift the inner oceans of the mind

fetching up on distant shores unannounced

disturbing the natives pontificating there.

Who is it strutting on the shore

in whom such ancient voices sound?


You don’t lift the phone or send an e-mail

to those gone beyond redialling.

Where are they ? We ask

concerned about our own destinations

the long walk to the station and the ever-waiting train.


December 1998