on the bed

The neighbours gathered, a few friends too
and not so much was said:
for old man Kerr was ninety-six
and lying on the bed.

Before too long the cards were out
and a bottle of rye was opened,
and the murmur rose with the euchre hands
as they found their ways of coping.

By quarter to six the the food was on:
some salads and some sandwiches;
the latter supplied by the Ladies Aid
who worked on their cross-stitches.

Before too long the clergy came
in the person of Father Leeds
and everything stopped, all the liquor and food
as they all put out the beads.

Then Jimmy McPhee and his fiddle walked in
and he struck up a hearty strathspey
and the children engaged in some terpsichore
and the pipes began to play.

Then folk from the village began to come
with whiskey and apple pies
and others arrived as their chores were done
and the party swelled in size.

Then Bishop MacDonald walked in and knelt
and again put out the beads
and everything stopped for the dialogue
and the hope that God would heed.

Just then from the room at the back of the stove
emerged a pale sad face
“He’s gone,” said she, “to eternal reward.”
And the silence filled the place.

“Amen,” said the Bishop, and he gathered his oils
and disappeared into the room.
“Let’s dance” said a voice, and the fiddle struck up,
and left no room for gloom.

And off in the hills, where the winter lay white
under the sliver of moon,
the snow shivered down from a lofty spruce
as a breeze played the fiddler’s tune.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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2 Responses to on the bed

  1. danae mcC says:

    Another charmer.

    Interesting, if this a custom thereabouts. What would this gathering be called? A death watch seems as if it would be more lugubrious, and I’ve thought that wakes don’t take place before the loved one has, umm, departed.

    This line is lovely: “the snow shivered down from a lofty spruce.” In fact, that whole stanza is magical.

    Thanks!

    • riverwriter says:

      I suppose you could call it a “wait”. It happened more in the past, when wakes would be held at home, and the rural community had fewer means of communications such as telephones. The celtic community in this region has a very dark sense of humour about death. Our family, for example, is known for throwing terrific wakes, and we have a great store of tales about them.

      About the last stanza: I like it, too; but I am still looking for a way to integrate it a little more with some early planting, perhaps.

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