If I Was Dead

If I Was Dead
If I was dead,
and my bones adrift 
like dropped oars 
in the deep, turning earth; 

or drowned, 
and my skull 
a listening shell 
on the dark ocean bed; 

if I was dead, 
and my heart 
soft mulch 
for a red, red rose; 

or burned, 
and my body 
a fistful of grit, thrown 
in the face of the wind; 

if I was dead, 
and my eyes, 
blind at the roots of flowers, 
wept into nothing, 

I swear your love 
would raise me 
out of my grave, 
in my flesh and blood, 

like Lazarus; 
hungry for this, 
and this, and this, 
your living kiss.
Carol Ann Duffy

from Rapture (London: Picador, 2005)

Reproduced by permission of the author.
Carol Ann Duffy

The first female, Scottish Poet Laureate in the role's 400 year history, Carol Ann Duffy's combination of tenderness and toughness, humour and lyricism, unconventional attitudes and conventional forms, has won her a very wide audience of readers and listeners. 

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About If I Was Dead

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2006. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2006 was Janice Galloway.

Editor's comment: 
Queasy, dark this grudging half-love, half-loathing poem struck from first reading. The Border Ballad style reflects Duffy's own bridge between English and Scottish traditions.

Author's note: 
'If I Was Dead' is a love poem from the collection Rapture. Like all the poems in that book, it is autobiographical, but also concerned with the long tradition of the love poem itself.