Come to an End

All things come to an end
this is the way of the living,
the happy and the dying;
the fight itself is noble, yet
will be lost, defiance is
to rage and flail and fail,
ignorance is to toddle,
immaturely, in darkness
in blind, avoiding hope,
sadness is surrender,
futility begets sorrow,
censure yields mockery
but eulogy is salvation for
it gives the end to all things
and all things come to an end.

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Praise or Pity

StarsAre we to be praised or pitied?

Creatures starring at stars

dreaming of loves dear lost

hoping as death takes us

every day, each and every day;

living long enough, across enough

to share the love we knew

with those whom we wish to know

that we loved as we were loved.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep…

now I lay me down to sleep...Looking off she quietly said,

“I’ve been practicing death since

I was born… closing my eyes every night,

happy enough to dream I’d awake another day…

it’s like we were born for this – trusting rest, but it

takes a lifetime to learn to be ready for it.

And I’m ready.”

Famous Last Words

What if the last thing you ever said
to your father was “I hate you”? Not
‘Good night Dad’ or even ‘I love you’
or the in-between child- and adulthood
‘Thank you’ which shows the first signs
of understanding how much he doesn’t
do that he wants and instead how
many times he did everything for you,
and how much he gave up so
you could have what you thought
was so little and you said those other
three little words, “I hate you,” the
night before he died and that was
more than forty years ago now; what if
that was what you had to live with?
I wish this could be some moralizing
poem by Edgar Guest, or a saying
from some wise Chinaman, but I didn’t
have the luxury of learning secondhand
what mistakes I’d already made like
saying “I hate you” to my Dad one
afternoon and refusing to speak to him
ever again in an eleven-year-old tantrum
because he wouldn’t give me an
advance on my allowance so I could buy
a model car at the toy store that day.
He would take me there after going to
the hardware store on Saturday mornings
where I’d play with the screws and bolts
while he talked to the guys wearing blue
or red vests about hinges or tools and
I’d fidget until he was done and I got
what I wanted and looked at every
model car, plane and ship available.
He was teaching me the value of a
dollar and the meaning of credit and
debt and I was learning he could buy
anything he wanted but he didn’t want
what I wanted and so I taught him
how hateful an eleven-year-old could
be, and I meant it, I really did. Until
I woke up the next morning, that June
Morning, with guests crowding my home
and my Mom sat me down and told
me that Daddy had died and I cried,
mostly because that was what everyone
else was doing and ever since that day
because I couldn’t take back the very
last words I ever wanted to speak to him,
and I’ve been sorry for a long time now,
Dad; really sorry.

In a Good Story…

In every good story someone dies
(sometimes, but more frequently,
in bad ones as well); not always
tragically or poignantly, not always
sadly or in a timely fashion, usually
importantly a death is required.

It may be that it’s a way to make
tales more authentic, but it ironically
renders death’s severity a mere ploy
in the hands of desperate dramatists
longing for gravitas yet in failure;
simply turn dust back to dust.

Occasionally it’s accidently but
unexpectedly; and if the desire is
manipulative – the death of a child,
boy or girl, either will do – to tweak
the emotions of even the hardened
with an appeal to the weak.

Now multiple deaths are a waste
to an author and thus school bus
fatalities (a kindergarten field trip
tragedy) are typically avoided
and mass murders’ victims aren’t
the story in the first place.

Too many tales are funereal,
too many yarns come undone
and too many wakes begin stories
of too many things gone wrong;
dramas of dads and mamas
until death do everyone part.

Narrators, of course, play God
knowing, seeing all, all at once
what’s in heads, hiding from light
but telling us only part of a story;
this or that reason for lost life,
providing knowledge we lack.

The human story’s author
has wasted over a hundred billion
anonymous deaths littering lands,
mocking prophet amidst dry bones;
the deity’s wonderful plan for life
trumps all novelist’s narratives.

Oh, Hell I Guess…

dante-inferno
Dante has his seven circles
Homer his Hades, Isaiah his Sheol,
Jesus a Gehenna of unquenchable fires,
Muhammad a threatening Jahannam,
and John a Lake of sulfuric Fire
for a Disney Land of torturous pain
too much for old-school ameliorists
just wishing for annihilation or the
Great Nothing which means so much
more nothing when capitalized, and
it’s Joseph who gives us two hells – one
temporary for pain and anguish in-between
and romantically tolerable like another
purgatory, but the other a serious forever
of outer darkness for Saints gone astray
or souls beyond their reach or anyone’s;

we have nothing of the kind today,
no gnashing of teeth, unquenchable fire
to torment the wicked and straighten
our ways today by some pragmatic and
self-audited karma of paying it forward
to match the bitch of being paid back,
or peril of judgment tomorrow or
the childhood threat of Santa keeping lists,
instead we have dreams of nothing
like falling asleep – a long rest
or life simply not being so complicated,
a benign-ness beyond feeling, even a light
that everyone wants to walk toward
all met by the certainty of some
that the world is ever-worse
because hell is no more and you’ll see;

but what if – and this is what sticks – what if
even a hint is true of the unknowable,
that’s Pascal’s wager I guess because that’s
all it can be – a guess of what I should
or ought or must do today
while Joseph’s haunting outer darkness
makes me wonder of an even more
lost and irredeemable wilderness,
something beyond the imagination
and that’s what keeps me wanting,
guessing, believing there is more to
believing than believing in hell.

When children have cancer…

 

 

 

 

Can it be what is deserved
by a four-year-old child?
The cells distorted and
deteriorating inside, from
inside her bones still soft in
youth, but fragile from birth;
some signal isn’t working,
white cells that won’t mature,
too full and crowding life;
and the word everyone
uses is ‘acute’ – a bad and
unwelcome thing with too
many synonyms to count,
all troubling and painful things
with a mysterious origin than
no one knows so there’s no
one to blame except God;
she only has strength to
smile through dry, cracked lips,
her skin is taunt over thinning
features and only her cheeks
show her adolescence, while
adults are masked to protect
her from what’s always worse,
more tiring, more frightening;
it hardly seems right she is
unafraid and just needs to
rest, while everyone around
her is just terrified and can’t.

When family photographs mattered…

Before everything was photographed only
certain things were, special occasions and not
people laughing uncontrollably or our lunch,
people posed, not candid or cute or coy, but
smiling practiced smiles at the prompt ‘Say cheese!’
and we did because it would be weeks before
we knew if someone’s eyes were closed
or Mom would say ‘You didn’t get my good side’
and Dad would be obliged to offer, ‘You don’t
have a bad side, honey’ and that was about
as public as their romance was allowed to be,
sulky children, on the other hand, only had
sour sides, pouting or nonplused standing
stiffly in uncomfortable shoes you couldn’t
even see in the photograph (‘but I know you’re
wearing them’ Mom would say), and they were
primped in starched ‘outfits’ instead of ‘everyday
clothes’ that they were never allowed to ‘play’ in,
as in, just do what it was that a child did, and
this photograph would be pressed into a book,
the corners tucked into those sticky darts
attaching it to the parchment to be viewed on
special occasions or the day after someone in the
photograph died like Dad did and some old Aunt
looking over Mom’s shoulder would say something
like, ‘He always looked so handsome in that suit.’

Death chose me…

 

 

 

 

Preoccupation

I am accused of
having a preoccupation
with death,
the dead,
the anticipation of dying
(which we call birth),
bereavement intrigues me,
hospice and palliative care
I consider bemusing,
even amusing at times;
death and what it means
and doesn’t mean
(everything),
who it involves
(which is every single
last one of us,
no matter how much
we ignore it, which we do,
we all do),
but death waits for no man,
or woman,
so before I could
invite it in for a drink,
a conversation,
it chose me,
when I was just a boy,
disguised at first,
but today bold and sociable,
yet never
on my terms,
and that’s how it all began
and that’s how it all will end,
and I’ll admit
the accusation has a ring
of truth to it.

I knew he’d live forever…

Knob of Pearl

I was eight, maybe nine, and it should have
changed my world to see that my father was
a mere mortal – flesh and bones and blood,
but it only made him more of a superman
to me, impervious to torn flesh and oozing
blood – deep red and opaque seeping from
the gash on his knuckle, layers of skin torn
away by a trowel as he gardened and I played
nearby; “Look,” was all he said and I peered
into his wound to see the bright white of his
bone exposed, a little knob of pearl between
the serrated opening, he bent his finger
and it danced, and for once I said nothing,
for almost fifty years; such a display should
cure the myth of paternal immortality,
but it’s effect was the exact opposite.