Appointments in Samarra

The Grim Reaper by Thomas Roth, showing a sculpture by August Schmiemann.

Appointments in Samarra

I meet the very best of men, too late,
At their very end,
I meet the kindest women, small and great,
As they unblend.
I also meet the very worst,
But even they become un-cursed –
I find a goodness in them all,
My temporary friends.

I couldn’t say what sends them on their way –
Biology or fate –
Who knows what dividends await ?
I’ve lost track of the holy text.
I only get to spend a minute or two,
To take them by the hand,
And help them pass on through
To whatever land shall be their next.

I meet the very best of folk,
And always just in time,
For one last breath, for one more joke,
Before they quit their prime.
I know not why it has to be,
Our sand runs out so fast –
But what an honour it is for me
To meet with you at last.

The title is a nod to William Maugham’s 1933 play Sheppey which, besides from being a rare celebration of working class life in a British play 24 years before John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, also popularied an old Arabian story. It’s so well told that it’s a shame to have to point out the absolute zombified world of Predestination it implies.

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