Azrael’s name is one that we fear;

Mentioned in whispers on the edge of a tear,

Standing in doorways, or sat by our bed,

Azrael’s face is the one that we dread.

Azrael’s eyes are pits of dark flames.

Filled with compassion, he plays no sick games.

Watching the dying, he waits as a friend;

Azrael’s comfort is there to the end.

Azrael’s sword is the coldest of steel;

Cutting so fast there’s no pain to feel.

Flaming with pity, icy with care,

Azrael’s sword cuts straight and fair.

Azrael’s wings are the feathers of night;

Unfurled in the darkness, they shine without light.

A fragrance of lilies, a touch of cold earth,

Azrael’s wings bring forth a new birth.




He looks enough like my father

To make me feel very guilty

For standing gawping open-mouthed

At the shrunken leather features,

The hands folded neatly as if in prayer,

And the feet poking pathetically

From the unravelling linen.

I like to look but I hate myself

For enjoying it so much.

Empty eye sockets packed with cloth

Gaze blindly and forlornly back,

The worn teeth slightly visible beneath

Withered and blackened lips in rictus smile.

He’s long beyond truly smiling

And even further beyond caring

What I, the onlooker, may see.

To end his existence as an artefact

Encased in a glassy tomb

Seems a form of hell far beyond

Anything he might have expected

Of his promised after-life.

But it is an immortality of sorts.


(this is about another Mummy, one I saw some years ago in Derby city museum. I must write one for Ginger too. )

Night Shift

Night Shift

(for those who wait with the dying)



I want to hold back Death:

Impossible of course,

But every time I try,

Standing in the way,

Arms outstretched

As if to halt

A bolting horse,

It passes through

As if I, not it,

Were insubstantial mist.

And I feel a touch

Across my face

Of trailing cobwebs

Or frosted feathers

Stiff with ice.


The Comfort of Ashes

I was travelling for most of Ash Wednesday and would have posted this then but now will do better anyway:

The Comfort of Ashes
There’s something clean about ashes;
Rubbish reduced to uniform powder.
No heaps of trash to hurt the eye,
No rotting corpse to hurt the heart.
A gust of wind, a wash of water
And it’s gone for good:
It does not disturb me that I am such dust;
What the fire cannot touch
Never can be touched
By hand or flame or even eyes.
Let then the residual ash be blown
On the wind and be gone,
Returned to the kind earth
Whose bones gave me form
And let my soul go home unhindered.

Two takes on death

I wrote this some years ago but it still holds true.

Two Takes On Death
When people die, however dear,
There is a small and shameful voice
That whispers in the secret midnight grief:
"Thank God!" and breathes relief.
When William died I did not howl
As once I'd thought I must,
But amid the dry and sterile pain I thought
That nothing worse might come to him.
We who are cursed with the two-edged gift
Can see all futures and all endings
And sigh when worsened pains are spared
And let our loved ones go in peace.
How different then the warrior kind
Who thought it shame to die in bed,
Preferred a gory, glorious death
While we murmur, "Poor Soul,
He slipped away in sleep, thank God!"