I am exploring various poetry forms this week that I would not normally practice. Having warmed up with a month of poetry etudes I am pushing myself to try the previously less tested ways of expressing a poem. I do believe I must have had a bash at an elegy at some stage during the past two years of NaPoWriMo, but I honestly cannot remember that effort. The death of a friend’s father at age 91 prompted me to consider that generation that is swiftly passing from us. Both my mother, mother-in-law, beloved aunt and paternal uncles all saw their 90th birthdays and beyond. They lived in interesting times, growing up in either the Great Depression, World War II, and the extreme austerity of post-war reconstruction.

So this elegy was written with Bill in mind, who as a child witnessed the demotion of the city of Coventry in a fire storm, as much as my mother, who was medical support staff in the U.S. Coast Guard, or my in-laws who survived blitz and the North Africa campaign in the service of the RAF’s Air Sea Rescue. They did live to a brave age, as we say in Ireland, but they also lived in an age that made them have to be brave.


A Brave Age


Sorry for your loss, then,

He was a brave age, or

She lived to a brave age,

that making of old bones.


They lived in a brave age.

Greatest generation,

fighting, forging freedom,

having a ringside seat


to RAF and Luftwaffe

nights of mass destruction,

either in a cockpit

or crouched in bomb shelter.


They all knew the gnawing,

collateral damage

in years of aftermath.

Do the arithmetic.


Age 90 they achieve

near 33 thousand

days on earth, breathed, lived,

seen, done, been unconquered


despite hairline fractures,

bowed spines, fading hearing,

cataracts. Then the falls

that carry them all off.


The effort needed to care –

about bills, birthdays, the

ephemera of life

all slip under the door


like a bad ransom note

from those they knew when young

when no one was young but

their self. Memory,


the synapses fizzle,

static on the line, then

losing the connection.

So maddening.


Then the final falling

away –onto the floor,

into the outback of



The medical notes say:

Do no resuscitate.

Let those hallowed old bones

take flight.







Copyright © Bee Smith 2018