Don't count on Heaven, or on Hell.
You're dead. That's it. Adieu. Farewell.
Eternity awaits? Oh, sure!
It's Putrefaction and Manure
And unrelenting Rot, Rot, Rot,
As you regress, from Zoo. to Bot.
I'll Grieve, of course,
Departing wife,
Though Grieving's never
Lengthened Life
Or coaxed a single extra Breath
Out of a Body touched by Death.

"The Biologist's Valediction to His Wife"
from Offcuts by Sherwin Stephens

Being Dead, a novel by Jim Crace, tells of two biologists, murdered on a beach, and how they came to be there on that day: reasons from that morning and from years ago. It is also the story of the two bodies decaying on the beach, sheltering flora and feeding fauna and rotting, waiting to be found. The book is so cold, unflinching, detailed that I was certain it was true, until improbable coincidences and discernably fabricated science, history, and references to literature tell you that you're in some strange, invented world.

This poem, the novel's epigraph, fits such a book perfectly.

There is no book called Offcuts and no poet named Sherwin Stephens: they are inventions of Crace, a counterfeit epigraph to a deceiving book speaking cold, ironic, awful truth.

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