Saturday, May 05, 2007

All the Dear Dead

I am at that point in life in which I have known more people who have now passed on compared to people I know who are still alive. . .

I reported earlier on the death of my cousin, Kenneth Matchett, who had been manager of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as well as later, the manager of a trout farm for Lord Shaftesbury near Knowlton in Dorset. Now my uncle, Douglas Matchett, a former civil servant, has died age 92 in Alderney Hospital, Poole. Here are a couple of poems about his passing.

To My Uncle Douglas, in a Coma

Now they call to tell me you've suffered
a massive stroke, cocooned in a coma
at ninety-two, an ocean-width from me.

In the sea off the pine-filled chine
of Canford Cliffs, I will prepare
to scatter your ashes. We sat by

the bowling green, sipped tea; a magpie
floated down from the pines, strutted
among the shiny black bowling balls.

You will never write your life story.

Christopher T. George

The "life story" was something that Doug often talked about completing in letters and phone conversations. However, he was not really a self-reflective person and such writing would have been very difficult for him. He could be a raconteur and tell a story well, but putting his ideas down would be less easy, and I think somewhat stilted. At any rate, Donna and I will visit Poole, Dorset, on 26 May and possibly I will see then whatever progress he may have made on his magnus opus. A term he used, incidentally, for a booklong autobiographical poem called Toxteth that I published in 1976.

My uncle had a lifelong problem with memory even before senility robbed his faculties in the last years. My mother tells an anecdote in which as a young man he purchased a book called Think Clearly to help him remember and that he came downstairs to tell visitors about the putchase of the book, then forgot why he came downstairs.


Isolated in my grief, I drive downtown
to pick up Mom's prescription, decide
not to say her brother passed yesterday,
don't wish to spoil tonight's wedding
of the granddaughter of a late friend,
in which Mom will stand in for grandma.

Now, I am driving home. I'm wearing two
red baseball caps, in memory of my uncle,
famous for wearing two ties to a funeral.
The world's shot; it's all bad news today.
Yet, on a streetcorner, a poet passes
out fresh copies of The Daily Word.

Christopher T. George

The left photograph shows my Uncle Douglas holding me in April 1948 at my christening at age three months, and the right photo my Mom on the same occasion. Get a load of that hat!