Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011


by Richard Brown

Up in the Halls of Death they issue newcomers
a jigsaw on your birth day
and though you think your life is
one long random lurch from one thing to another
up there somewhere they are busy composing it bit by bit.
Only the quiet click of each piece falling into place
disturbs the deathly silence.

There's no sense of time in the Halls of Death
except that which is measured by a completed jigsaw.
Those who have many jigsaws to their name
are the Death Seers who have seen it all:
they are given the statesmen, the writers, the saints and inventors,
the great lovers and poets, who live entangled lives

while a special class who once led exemplary lives
are given the sadists, the tyrants, the rapists and murderers
and told to get a move on.

Childhood is always the hardest part,
getting a sense of what the picture, with no box-top guide, might be,
then building the edges first to contain it all.
Youth gives the greatest pause for thought between the
laying of pieces, the most mistakes,
but after middle age it becomes a little predictable,
and after the three-quarter mark a time for yawns, not-this-one-again.

It all tends to the final piece.
With this the Jigsaw Maker is given some discretion
as to when he might fix it into the inevitable place,
depending on how fond he's become of the subject,
or how much he wants to make them suffer.

Some completed jigsaws are turned into works of art
and hung on the endless walls in the Gallery of Death.
Here, between jigsaws, the Makers stroll, brooding,
comparing notes, sharing black comedy.
The rest are swept away, their cardboard pieces recycled
in the great compost of life.

Added: 16.03.2011