Death and Taxes
It was as if she’d died in paperwork.
The pension fund to close. Some creditors,
their final bills. Running accounts
to be reined in, their gallop stopped.
No matter which way you cut it,
bureaucracy attends the dead.
I read somewhere how they do it in the Deccan,
in India. The old stumbling off into the stony hills
taking their last rest under the beating sun,
letting the wild beasts sort their bones.
Not our tradition. It wouldn’t be allowed. Besides,
where in the Chilterns
could a dying person hide?
So here’s my mother on her final day.
An oxygen mask, six patients in a ward –
a screen drawn round her bed.
She smiles bleakly to help me feel at ease.
Fear in her eyes. Her final words,
whispered in my ear,
‘How warm your hand is.’
And all at once there are documents to sign,
lawyer’s fees to be paid, while the inland revenue
pours its requirements like wet cement
into the void the loved one leaves behind.