Dennis O'Driscoll

copyright ©Dennis O'Driscoll 2004

someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie
eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea
scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last
shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out
spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass
someone today is leaving home on business
saluting, terminally, the neighbours who will join in the cortege
someone is paring his nails for the last time, a precious moment
someone’s waist will not be marked with elastic in the future
someone is putting out milkbottles for a day that will not come
someone’s fresh breath is about to be taken clean away
someone is writing a cheque that will be rejected as ‘drawer deceased’
someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar
someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast
someone is making rash promises to friends
someone’s coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined
who feels this morning quite as well as ever
someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date
perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament
someone today is seeing the world for the last time
as innocently as he had seen it first

Notes on the Poem

We never tire of reprising this poem, even though it was a sad occasion that led us to first present this poem by the late and much missed Dennis O'Driscoll. This poem's down-to-earth and clear-eyed wisdom, so emblematic of the poet, continues to comfort us. We shared the sadness of family, friends and poetry lovers at the passing of Dennis O'Driscoll in late December, 2012. The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry was honoured to have Dennis serve as a judge for the 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize. He worked tirelessly and thoughtfully along with US poet and academic Saskia Hamilton and Canadian writer and playwright Michael Redhill to read close to 500 books of poetry as part of the judging responsibilities that year. He also became a good friend and deeply admired colleague of many associated with the Griffin Trust. Of the many tributes, the one from fellow Irishman Seamus Heaney was particularly touching and perceptive. It now has even more resonance since it was first penned.

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