The departed array down cobbled streets,
In grand stone mansions and tumbledown semi-detacheds,
Each tomb accruing moss, twigs and leaves
The motes of dust and pollen that cling
To the stone, specks of mortality upon mortality.
On some, the name and dates are clear, upon others,
Time has re-inscribed its own hazy signature.
Here Chopin, there Apollinaire, Curie and Piaf,
Balzac and Proust, and Oscar Wilde,
Rotten the lot of them, as you too are rotting,
On the green park bench of the cemetery,
Parted only by the question of time.
A clack of heels in the early morning,
Three girls in sunglasses saunter by,
Still on the scent of Jim Morrison, passing
A hobo arising Lazarus-like from his bench,
Florid faced, desperate in another new day.
The crematorium rises above all, part Saint Sofia
Part power station, blackened at the nostrils,
Over the streets of the infamous and famous,
Together now in the democracy of death,
Who commanded a brigade, a nation,
An insurance company, wives dutifully
Beside them, forever now,
Mistresses banished, cinq a sept no more.
You may find the graves of no-one famous,
Beyond the president about whom
You remember a story of the most delectable
Of gossip, yet such a life so many others
Here too might have led, being human.
The statue of the dead president rests
Atop his tomb, secure in its moustache.
You find no Piaf, no Morrison,
Or the Wilde lipsticked with kisses,
And leave feeling you could have tried harder,
Stopped someone for advice, tried to buy a map,
But that probably it was right this way,
To let the dead suggest themselves, or rest on,
With those who for one reason or another
Were not them, and did not leave behind
The poetry, music, art, the catalogued tid-bits
That are all that remain of fame.
What you take with you is the quiet,
In its own way as triumphant as the night
Long ago in the camp ground, overhearing
The couple in the next tent making love
With such uninhibited declamatory passion,
As if they could stop the world from ending,
And for those moments did, their cries
As deep and long as the silence that here abides.
- Larry Buttrose