The dead are villains we pretend to love.
Their waxy faces a serene reproach.
We learn their secrets with distaste:

the things they did make them at least
as bad as we are –  even worse because
they’re dead, and we’re alive and might improve.

The dead are villains we pretend to love.
They died deliberately to spite us,
to leech our lifeblood for their awful dryness.

We clothe their faults in all the virtues
they never had, to keep them in their place,
where they should stay, away from us.

The dead are villains we pretend to love
though every now and then we hear their voice
speaking exactly as they spoke to us,

and see their smiles again as they once smiled,
and their hair unfaded as it was in life.


from Crocodiles and Obelisks (Faber, 2008), © Jamie McKendrick 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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