There is a sign
Just inside the gates
Spray-painted in bright yellow:
A picture of two bodies
And an arrow between them
Labelled ‘6 ft’.

It looks like a traffic marking.
Strange to see this
On consecrated ground,
Where stone angels hover,
And carefully-chiselled dates
Book-end the lives
Of the sleepers
Under our feet.

Someone passes,
Chasing their dog.
A woman in exercise gear
Does lunges
In front of gravestones.
A child is learning
To ride a scooter.

The folks passing
In lonely, quiet contemplation,
Like myself,
Are in the minority.

There is something lovely
In this reminder
That life never ceases
It just layers the new
On top of the old.

Restaurants are dark.
Windows of shops
Are boarded up.
Theatres and churches
Are empty.

The graveyard
Is a rare place
We can safely gather.

I smile
At the people passing
And carefully
Swerve my path.

Six feet
Is the distance
Between the living
And the dead.

Note: I saw actually did see this painted on a walk through Hampstead Cemetery – except that version said ‘2m’ instead of ‘6 ft’. This wasn’t nearly as poetic, so I tweaked it.

Photo by A.C. Smith