When she saw a corpse in the snow,
fringed by a clear melt line,
she knew he’d lain there quite a while,
taking his time to die.
What’d you suppose he’d been thinking,
as breath clouds shrank to naught?
Did he wonder if death was better
when it was a fight you fought?
Maybe he was past such concerns,
and in his final hours,
he conjured into his mind a
field of spring wildflowers.
Maybe he’d moved beyond caring,
and just lie, feeling cold,
tuning into the clouds above
watching their shapes unfold.
No one could ever know such things,
so why did she so care?
That someone should, occurred to her,
was only right and fair.
On the cusp of each journey that matters,
a mingling of wonder and fear flushes the body.
If you made the journey,
wonder outshone fear.
Death is a journey.
I can’t tell you whether it’s
-a journey to oblivion
-a journey to spread one across a web of consciousness
-a journey to be uploaded into another body
-a journey to Heaven or the Elysian Fields
I don’t know,
but I don’t have to know.
All I have to do is be ready for the journey, and
Let my wonder burn brighter than my fear.
on a fence rail,
i saw a scorpion —
dead, but menacing
a dog nudges
its dead companion,
no one contemplates the
grasping the sword
like nothing depends upon
when you accept
that you, too, will be food,
death holds no sway
Radnóti wrote, “Walk On, Ye Doomed”
[Járkálj Csak, Halálraítélt!]
in 1936 —
Eight years before he was force marched to death by Nazis.
And I am left to wonder whether he was a prophet,
or whether the Poet’s obsession with death makes him seem prophetic.
Whether he was a prophet or not, he was true to his poem.
There’s at least 750 kilometers between the copper mines of Bor and the tiny northern Hungarian town where he was killed — a place closer to both Bratislava and Vienna than to Budapest.
Call it 500 miles on foot,
emaciated from cracking rock for copper to build the war-machinery of those trying to erase a people — his people.
They found a pocketful of poems on his person when he was exhumed.
If you can’t think of anything else to do in the act of slogging at gunpoint across two countries than to craft poems, you are not a poet, you are THE Poet.
What’s the age at which dancing on a grave switches from an adorable bubbling over of life
deplorable act of petty vindictiveness?
I saw a boy — clearly in the former category — pull it off,
but I knew that if I joined in the best I could hope for was an evil eye. And the worst would be to be slapped, kicked, or spat upon.
For I long ago crossed the river of innocence beyond which lie presumptions of foul intent.
An ever-watchful Orphean world keeps me from crossing back over that Stygian river.
Oh, to live life on the other bank.
5.) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: Deep life lessons learned inside a Nazi death camp.
4.) Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: A medical doctor discusses how living longer doesn’t necessarily mean living better, and what that can mean for one’s final years.
3.) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: Contemplations on the meaning of life from a doctor who was dying from a terminal illness, and who succumbed before completion of the book.
2.) The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby: The story of a man who developed Locked-In Syndrome in the wake of a severe stroke and couldn’t move a muscle, save one eyelid.
1.) First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung: The title captures the family level tragedy of Pol Pot’s rule, but the book conveys something of the national tragedy as well.
Lay me down amid the mountains,
where the sky can call to me.
Set me under the falling rains.
Let me flow down to the sea.
I will float up toward the heavens,
and I’ll glide across the sky.
I will tour the Wonders seven
as a tear drop, sans an eye.
Rain down, run down, rise and repeat,
cycling to the end of days,
feeding plants and beating the heat,
heeding the summons of sun rays.
Long vacation in a glacier.
This is just my human nature.
sitting atop a wall
why die there?
i give them wide berth
they’ve yet to choose
i thought you a leaf
do the ants know?
mossy flush-set headstone
unseen, not lost
the potter’s field
out near the back fence
closer to the world
5.) In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
excerpt [2nd stanza]:
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
4.) Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
excerpt [1st stanza]:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
3.) Because I could not stop for Death (479) by Emily Dickinson
excerpt [1st stanza]:
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
2.) To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick
excerpt [2nd stanza]:
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
The nearer he’s to setting.
1.) Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye [authorship disputed]
excerpt [opening lines]:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow…
someday someone will stumble on the stone
a stone outlasting skin and bone
a stone surface pocked and mossy
though once it shone polished glossy
brushing off letters worn shallow
on a stone face bleak and sallow
rendered so by nature and time
twins spoiling all not in its prime
they’ll read a name with bookend dates
and be shown they hold a common fate
should one become legend and myth
you’ll still not outlive your monolith