Poem introduction

This is a poem called 'The Conjuror' and it arose quite fortuitously as poems we all know so often do. We'd been to a funeral and we got there too early - it was one of those days you know when they come in every twenty minutes and we spent the time looking round the graveyard and saw something which I think would have appealed to anyone's imagination - a conjuror's grave.

The Conjuror

The Conjuror

Arriving early at the cemetery
For 'the one o'clock', we looked around
At the last sparks of other people's grief,
The flowers fading back into the ground.

A card inscribed 'With reverent sympathy
From the Magicians' Club' was propped against
A top hat made of blossoms and a wand
Tied with a black velvet bow. We sensed

The rabbits and the ladies sawn in half
One blink away from being visible
Although the quick deceiving hand was changing
To flyaway dust under a ton of soil.

The funeral that we came for turned the corner.
They had been right to think the world of you,
Who conjured up for us, a hearse approaching,
An interest in life. Bravo. Bravo.

from Collected Poems (Carcanet, 1990), © Patricia Beer 1990, by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd. Recording from An Introduction by Hutchinson's Poetry Editor, by permission of the British Library Sound Archive and The Poetry Society.

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