Byron’s Death Day – 19 April



I knew the place —
had been there once before
but couldn’t quite recall
the village blanketed
with such a pall
as cloaked it now.
But then when last I lingered
in the vicinity of Missolonghi
I’d been disadvantaged
by mortality.
I saw a barren room
above the noisome swamp,
an anteroom — a warrior
weeping on his shirt sleeve.
Even war it seemed must wait
while someone grieved.
Beside the rumpled bed
a bag of coin
to meet some poor
beleaguered servant’s pay —
death leaves no end of disarray.

From bodiless advantage
every detail sprang to life —
the flaking white wash on the wall,
a pistol hidden from its owner,
a wool capote fallen to the floor,
a soup dish full of blood
upon the side board cooling
like a Christmas pudding.
I didn’t waste a backward glance
to the former intimate acquaintance
sleeping late upon the lean camp bed —
I didn’t feel the need.
What could be said was said
at our last meeting.
He made no comment at my leaving
but just kept on dreaming.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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