The grave clothes
flow over him like water , after nine years
his colours drained away,
he is a fine-boned boat
alone on a shore.
lies uneasily with the rest , its high gloss
jars with the flaking Tudor faces.
His mother smoothed the folds so sheer
his body shows through.
First a death mask,
face oiled, nostrils strawed, then plaster
smoothed on the Botticelli lips;
when peeled away, she started shaping
her parfait, gentil knight.
I run my fingers
down the flowings of his shroud
trace the lines of his feet, crossed like a crusader’s,
and I kiss his face.
It is no colder
than others I have kissed, less shocking;
and the body is perfect, no one has carved their name.
In the glow of evening it is flesh coloured,
making death easier.
Ann Pilling, October 2015. Commended in the Teignmouth Poetry Competition 2017.