About His Person

by Simon Armitage

Five pounds fifty in change, exactly,
a library card on its date of expiry.

A postcard stamped,
unwritten, but franked,

a pocket size diary slashed with a pencil
from March twenty-fourth to the first of April.

A brace of keys for a mortise lock,
an analogue watch, self winding, stopped.

A final demand
in his own hand,

a rolled up note of explanation
planted there like a spray carnation

but beheaded, in his fist.
A shopping list.

A givaway photgraph stashed in his wallet,
a kepsake banked in the heart of a locket.

no gold or silver,
but crowning one finger

a ring of white unweathered skin.
That was everything.

Meaning of the Poem

This poem is about itemising the possessions found on a dead man, each of which tells a story and suggests things about his life. What should we make of the ‘ring of white unweathered skin’ that is found on the man’s finger? Armitage lets this details speak for themselves, ripe with suggestive associations and tragic undertones. What does a life amount to? This is the theme of this text – the title of which cleverly suggests not just the items found in the man’s possession but also the more abstract nature of what he, as a person, was ‘about’.

Last updated May 12, 2019