Funeral Blues

by W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

No, no one has died. No one that I know of, anyway. But this poem speaks of more than just death and the bereavement that comes from it. It speaks of the loss — any kind of loss — of someone who has meant everything to us, who was everything to us, and then, whether by choice or consequence, whom we had to let go of.

At one point I did think it felt as though someone — or something within me — had died. When I think back, it’s damned near impossible to believe that four and a half years ago, everything had been so very, very different. And now, as I move into the fifth year of this loss, the horror of the milestone — I mean, come on: five years! — I realize I need to find a way to help myself truly let go.

Even if it means giving you up for dead. Even if it means pretending you never existed. Even if it means pretending I never loved you until it became almost like a plague. Like the ashes and the dust, love must surely be quite capable of turning inwards on itself.

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