Keith Douglas

Simplify Me When I'm Dead

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Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I'm dead.

As the processes of earth
strip off the colour of the skin:
take the brown hair and blue eye


and leave me simpler than at birth,
when hairless I came howling in
as the moon entered the cold sky.


Of my skeleton perhaps,
so stripped, a learned man will say
"He was of such a type and intelligence," no more.


Thus when in a year collapse
particular memories, you may
deduce, from the long pain I bore


the opinions I held, who was my foe
and what I left, even my appearance
but incidents will be no guide.


Time's wrong-way telescope will show
a minute man ten years hence
and by distance simplified.


Through that lens see if I seem
substance or nothing: of the world
deserving mention or charitable oblivion,


not by momentary spleen
or love into decision hurled,
leisurely arrive at an opinion.


Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I'm dead.

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Keith Douglas