Saturday, 3 November 2012


During a recent visit to Vienna's largest graveyard - the Zentralfriedhof - I was struck by the large number of headstones casually marked with a small cross made with, I think, red wax crayon:


I was informed that these were 'forgotten' and neglected graves and that many of them were to be emptied of their contents.

The vacated plots were then to be sold-on to their next occupants. The inscribed headstones of the 'forgotten' would be taken away to be 'recycled'.

Clearly the hopeful phrase carved everywhere in stone - Rest in Peace - is not for eternity when it comes to Zentralfriedhof economics.

It's the same story in almost all Vienna's public graveyards, I was told.

It's a curious fact that most of the marble used in Vienna's graveyards these days is imported from India. Traditional Italian marble is proving hard to source, and the little there may be is too expensive for Viennese pockets. Hence the recycling scheme.

Death in Vienna is undoubtedly a growth industry.

My father's ashes were scattered without ceremony beneath an old oak tree in England and that is good.

In the Zentralfriedhof 

Gold has fallen 
from those trees
their bones now black and bare  

Frost has grown 
upon these leaves 
it covers them with care

The earth is hard 
and pale with frost 
it is a winter's tale

Upon her stone 
more leaves in line  
in goldness fading pale


a poem for those no longer resting in peace


  1. Sad in a way Gwilym, but then as I have no belief in the afterlife at all, and rather favour being put out for the crows to peck at, it really shouldn't make any difference to me. Yet somehow it does, as these folk probably had beliefs and just have no one left to care for their graves.

  2. Yes indeed, and it's a strange sensation to feel some empathy even when one has nothing in common with these unknown and dead people. I suppose it's something to do with the time of year, the crows, the mists, the fallen leaves . . . hence the poem.


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