A Sketch, A Memory

A misspelt prayer
on a child’s gravestone
Standing just a few feet away
from where your body lies

A ‘misspent’ youth
sometimes made your
humour a little hard to take
but I loved you anyway

And I know
you would have laughed with me
In the face of
such a tragic absurdity


These are lyrics to a song I wrote about my friend Alfie, some ten years ago now.

I remember laughing with him a lot. We both shared a dark and occasionally cruel sense of humour. As is often the way with these things, especially when combined with a lack of sobriety and the vigour of youth, the ever-shifting line of acceptability would sometimes get trampled over.

There’s a grave near his, the grave of a child. The epitaph is misspelt. I can imagine us laughing for a lack of knowing how else to react. Sometimes things are so sad and absurd, that’s all you can do.

My dad has described the accompanying musical composition as ‘pastoral’. It’s one of my favourite pieces I’ve written. Sprung forth in an instant from the depths of the unconscious.
I’ve never been able to record it.

A Working Epitaph

The Stone is not permission
It does not ask
It does not give
It simply serves
To remind
What little time we have
To Live


I cross Waterloo Bridge twice a day. Whenever I do, I see Cleopatra’s Needle. It is older than the city it stands in by around a millennium-and-a-half and older than me by double that and 500 years. It was gazed upon by Ramases II, Cleopatra, Ceaser and Mark Antony (and those are just the big names).

The people who carved it are not remembered.

I barely know the name of the person who did my job before me.

I don’t even know the names of all my great-grandparents.

I wrote this poem and recite it to myself every time I see the needle.

To and from work.

Every day.

How many died?

While you were silent
As the last note decayed in the air
Lingering against birdsong
And you bowed your head slightly
In reverence
At the correct angle
Your hand upon your hand
Like a school child
Reciting the rote-learned verse of prayer
As you thought upon
Brave men with moustaches
Or the weather
Or dinners yet to be cooked
Your poppy straight
And just large enough