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James G Harvey

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A simple death in London
by James G Harvey

Monday, January 17, 2011
Rated "G" by the Author.
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Recent poems by James G Harvey
•  Not Close
•  A poem condemned to die as a condition of its creation
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           >> View all 19

Southampton Row is a fabulous part of London, on a hot, summer day, all dust and traffic. I sat in a slowly moving taxi for what seemed like an age. Then I saw the corpse.

I didn't see him fall, spread-eagled there

Like someone snoozing after boozing up

All afternoon and losing everything

Like a knocked-out boxer vanquished in the ring

The middle of the road's his resting place

Though rest's the last thing on his mind, right now

Sleep forever all, around you noise

And taxi drivers swearing at the queue

I passed by ten short feet from his clean shoes

Admiring his immaculate attire

The suit well pressed and lined in aqua silk

His tie lay jaunty prone on his lapel

The final sign he wasn't just asleep

His lilac chequered shirt was open wide

From bullish neck to mammoth, though tanned, girth

With pad electrodes sticking to his sides

I'd thought that, from afar, this death seemed clear,

Knocked down pedestrian took fatal turn,

Not, beefy city gent struck down by bolt,

Of lightning through the heart while walking home,

Green boiler-suited medics stood around,

Two coppers talked and carefully noted down,

The time and date that death came into town,

And chased this well dressed man to Teheran*

* An old Persian proverb tells the story of a rich and mighty Persian who once walked in his garden with one of his servants.  The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him.  He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening.  The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse.  On returning to his house, the master himself met Death, and questioned him.  'Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?'

"I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,' said Death.


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