Merrick by Rose Drew

Most of us gaze in dismay
as pieces of us fall away with age:
Merrick gained.
He gathered, accumulated, soared and swelled—
until he crumbled.

His ivory skull gleams
in mad bumps and raucous swells;
upper lip, and chin, quiver with stony froth of false facial hair;
a billow of gathered bony brow beetles above his eyes;
a coronoid sail unfurls behind right cheek,
almost eye height,
damning his jaw, lips ever parted, to never move beyond a gasp.
With clear irony his marvellous left arm
curls to perfect fingers; his left condyle fits jaw
lovingly to unblemished ear,
left cheek proud of more obedient coronoid,
its shape a delicate spine in proper place.

But oh! his face commands us now: See me.
As age strips off your gifts, as you mourn their passing
(falling like November leaves)
imagine please, the defiant path,
the one who gathers and grows,
fails to recede—
beseeching: Dissolve gentle into older age.
For me.

*For Joseph Merrick, also known as “The Elephant Man”,
Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel


Rose Drew, from York UK via America, is addicted to hosting open mics; York’s Spoken Word is 6 years young. Besides working on an elusive PhD involving human skeletons, Rose co-owns Stairwell Books. Her book, Temporary Safety (FC Press) is No 9 on 2011 Purple Patch 20 Best Individual Collections.

© 2012 Rose Drew