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For Lucy McDiarmid

I have been thinking about the music for my funeral –

Liszt’s transcription of that Schumann song, for instance,

‘Dedication’ – inwardness meets the poetry of excess –

When you lead me out of your apartment to demonstrate

In the Halloween-decorated lobby the perfect acoustic

Of the stairwell, and stand among pumpkins, cobwebby

Skulls, dancing skeletons, and blow kisses at the ceiling,

Whistling Great War numbers – ‘Over There’, ‘It’s a Long,

Long Way’, ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’ (the refrain) –

As though for my father who could also whistle them,

Trench memories, your eyes closed, your head tilted back,

Your cheeks filling up with air and melody and laughter.

I hold the banister. I touch your arm. Listen, Lucy,

There are songbirds circling high up in the stairwell.

The Stairwell

Michael Longley

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