From back streets, alleys and hedgerows they came,
all sorts of people with children and dogs
filling the Chapel like a hall of fame;
the smell in the air had a whiff of bogs.
The best beggar in Worcester, that was Jack
a man of the street to be laid to rest,
no family to grieve, no mourners in black.
Some he had cheated, others could attest
they had learned from him street craft to survive,
receiving and sharing what came their way.
I read from St Luke how all turned aside
of those invited to the feast that day.
I gave them a welcome in Jesus' name
for coming to share the Jack that they knew.
It wasn't a banquet, but all the same
we gathered at the grave to ballyhoo.
A tipsy guy struggled to announce
he was known to them all as Steady Jack.
"Steady as you go!" his comrades pronounced.
A young Rastafarian kept us on track
with a wistful melody on his flute,
gathered for the committal packed in close.
Many an improvised personal tribute
was tossed into the grave for Jack's repose:
besides clods of soil a can of Guinness,
a bottle upended, several butt ends,
a home made wreath dropped in as a witness
limp but sincere to Jack's coffin descends.
To pay its respects an old dog came forward,
peered in, then curled up on a grave nearby.
Once the hole was filled and Jack was covered
expletives were uttered to satisfy
feelings deep within. Then dancing began
with bongo drums which continued till dusk.
Standing aside with much to understand
as cemetery staff completed their task,
I found respectful silence was broken
by fresh conversation of what we'd seen,
rituals of death uncommonly potent
shared and displayed with nothing routine.
Copyright © Lisle Ryder | Year Posted 2018
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