When I lived I was straight and stout-hearted, I feared neither the word nor the bullet, And I scorned all the usual ways. But now that this life Iíve departed Theyíve made me all crippled and crooked, With "Achilles" inscribed on the base. I canít shake off this granite flesh from me. From the monumentís plinth even more so I canít wrench this Achillean heel. A layer of cement presses numbly The iron ribcage supporting my torso - Spinal spasms are all that I feel. I boasted fine shoulders, none broader. Gauge their breadth! Iíd no inkling Iíd face the recorder After death. But Iíve been forced back into line. Straight they set Those uneven broad shoulders of mine For a bet. I had no sooner died than my kindred. The most efficient and quick ones, Came and moulded a mask of my face. And Iíve no idea who recommended That they lake off my high Asian cheekbones, But they scraped them away without trace. I never remotely suspected Or entertained even a thought of My ending up deader than dead. But they smoothed down the mask to correct it And deathís tedious blandness smiled out of The toothless grin in my head. When I lived I would not put my hand out To the sharks. They were scared to apply common standards To my work. But, to measure my corpse for the coffin, As his tool The mortician used only a rough one, A wood rule. And now, a year after my burial, As the crown of their work to adjust me, Theyíve gathered a huge crowd to gape, And unveiled their fine solid memorial To the sound of loud singing and lusty - My singing, recorded on tape. The loudspeakers blare out the music, Their din bursting in on my stillness; From the rooftops the spotlight beams glare. The marvels of modern acoustics Have reduced to a saccharine shrillness My voice that was hoarse with despair. I lie speechless, for so weíre all fated, In my shroud. Yet I hear myself bawling, castrated, To the crowd. My shroud is torn off - how reduced I am! Gauge my breadth! Like this how can I be of use to them After death? The Commandantís steps were sepulchral! I resolve, why canít I, as of yore, then, Walk abroad with a dull ringing tread? In the alleys the scattered crowds skulk while, Having wrested my fool out before them. My shattered stone fetters I shed. I pitch forward, stripped bare, and disfigured, And, falling, I strain every tendon To extend my iron claw of a limb. As I crash, from each sound-cracked loudspeaker My choked voice is heard, the air rending: "It seems Iím alive still!" I scream.
© Kathryn Hamilton. Translation, 1988