So everything dies…

Just last week the leaves clung

to their boughs

though heavy and sweetening,

 

glowing in October’s

blinding noonday sun

with its

hint of warmth still;

dancing in the stir of a breeze

soon to be bitter wind,

but mild still causing all to

inhale deeply, slowly

 

in a final, seasonal mindfulness

of fleeting comfort;

but November brought a change

of heavy rain

and the verdures no longer clung,

they yielded

and fell underfoot, waterlogged,

soon to rot,

 

staining the sidewalks if not

raked and swept

to be discarded in bags for burial,

 

no longer afforded

the final aromatic triumph of

autumnal cremation

stinging the eyes of dancing children

and rake-braced adults

gathered round in funereal muse.

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Once upon a time we died…

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,
or child apparently,
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 wonder if God attends funerals…

funeral 1She came to his funeral because
she said she should, she said she had to
because she knew that doing no harm
wasn’t the same as no harm done;
she was the first doctor I’ve seen in such a place
as if doctors don’t do death,
but every single patient they see dies,
someday and often only after they visit their doctor;

I mean, think about it… have you ever seen
a doctor attend a patient’s funeral? No, me neither,

I’m more of a philosopher and only pretend to know
the why of everything,
which reminds me: Do you know
the difference between God and a doctor? It’s
simple: God doesn’t pretend to be a doctor;

and it all makes me wonder as I sit in the second
pew, on the left, watching young children cry,
I wonder if God attends funerals.

The Irish die better than most…

IrishAn Irish wake is simple enough to observe
In summary it takes one and a clan, all devoted
Or should I say, one willing to die, the others to wake
Which requires a disproportionate sacrifice indeed
Like a pig and chicken to bacon and eggs
One sacrifices and the other just gives
Such forfeiture is an Irish wake creed

The deceased must die, unexpectedly deserved
Without diagnosis (that would require a surgeon)
And a male subject seems to be an absolute necessity
For men die younger and more often of course
Leaving some to wonder if the women ever pass
Or if the Irish wake is mainly a misandry liturgy
Retribution for hardship with no divorce

Let’s say Seamus failed to awake one day
Not through any fault of his own this time
The drink didn’t keep him asleep but death killed him
And he wasn’t noticed to have taken his leave
Until bean chéile scolds the deceased harshly
Upbraiding him for laziness while she labors on
Then in fault her anger turns to a guilty heave

To the window, new widow, to the window fly
Open it wide for his spirit has been cooped in
All superstition and lore are intense at times such as this
And it’s believed that an escape he must make
You in his state must remain the man’s servant
With the wake just begun you’ve still much to do
He’s out for the day and he won’t be home late

Having begun now wait briefly to shut it again
Lest he repent and wish to return, lock him out
Sadly he leaves but now and forever he must stay away
And her true gift must now can be observed
To telegraph the news to friend and kin alike
Crying he’s passed just as one would expect
But certainly not as he or we all deserved

Next to the clocks if there be more than one
And stop time in respect for it seems poetic
While everyone else hastily prepares the house for visitors
‘Tis no better time to make the appearance clean
Cover the mirrors throughout the house as well
In fear that someone might spy death itself
And the next demise would be foreseen

It is necessary that the body be prepared
And shaved to make the man presentable
Whether as such he appears more handsome is debatable
His one suit never fit him right and now as well
But out of respect he’s dressed and tied together
Older women do this because they’ve all seen
There are no surprises with an Irish swell

After the man’s body is bathed and freshed
Handy women would also band his jaw shut
Lest the lout gape back at them as if he’s trying to speak
They’ve heard enough and’ll hear no story
He’s sent off well and well silent he be
They’ll be no drawing attention to himself
As he waits patiently in dear purgatory

The table is for today his place of repose
Oddly sacred but in an unusual fashion
And all gather to remain attending this reserved vigil
Cross oneself, prayers silent but well versed
Friends kneel, but family must kiss his cheek
All pray for his soul as they’ve always done
And they’re respectfully quiet at least at first

Quiet is not a room nearby kept for keening
This wailing is bitching at the man himself
They wouldn’t complain so to the Lord or blaspheme
Loudly screeching  these banshees in grief
A true Irish symphony of widows and wives
Pausing only to sample meal and tepid tea
With no proper meal only eating in brief

With these formalities having been filled
We turn to the heart of the gathered throng
Food and drink as in meats and breads and alcohol strong
Conversation comes much easier with such prying
Lies flow as freely as drink in pleasant memories
Raising the glass encourages rounds of affection
Toasted with fondness forever undying

Candles are lit, a dozen with one Judas put out
For even the Lord had a neighbor ill tempered
Tobacco and pipes, lard and hard spirits were men’s share
Always plenty since there’s no woman to warn
And they’d give them rest and something to do
Rest was allowed but sleeping lacked respect
As the watch carried into night and new morn

Games fill the hours not to pass the time
Playfulness mocks death but not the deceased
This hoolie is underway and will carry on without guilt
As the door welcomes but no one departs
And none contemplate what done him in
Knowing what doesn’t send death to flight
So they dance to show the ache of hearts

The blessed rosary is recited mid-night
A decade signaling the end of the vigil today
But simply a respite in the country as they await the morn
The Father and Mary are made to attend
Invited by the women but observed by all
And stories are woven by the teller of tale
Binding living to dead to grave transcend

All the debts of life are due the widow now
This dying fails to undo anything done
For all the good such men are for, fightin’, bonin’, drinkin’
The scars are deep, the children horde
And friends take up the pub where left off
Sell what she can, no sentiment to afford
Save us from his sins, our merciful Lord

Promises are made but needn’t be kept
‘I’m sorry for your trouble’ is solace enough
Only deeds have value and of course ordering of the coffin
It matters that you show forgetting his mistakes
It’s remembered more than you can imagine
For this is the Irish way when words are many
Only rivaled by the number of our wakes

The keening fades as the morning dawns
When undertaken away the reason to gather
Saddest, last of all farewells this exit will not be undone
Forced to send-off this cheerless bier
Roads no longer rise, breeze is stiff afore
The sun now hides and storms drown all joy
We may meet again, but there not here.

No doubt of me in you…

funeralLet it be known to all loved and kin
I’m no longer abiding this worldly din.

My many days having run their course
I am no longer as healthy as a horse.

In my last I have some things to say
which leaves my estate in this word play.

It’s not too late if you’re reading this
I’ve had my play and exceeding bliss.

Now without regrets I rest my head
without guilt or pain for now I’m dead.

And if you’re blue, I should be glad
for missing’s a pain that’s not all sad.

My laughter, too rare, is also departed,
my smile, too crooked, was never half-hearted.

But my love for you was always so true,

and there should be no doubt of me in you.

Every good story begins…

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 turning 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 does 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.

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

I’m dying…

I’m dying, you too;
we’re all dying
(that’s what makes us
biologic, real, living);
and that’s what makes
me ordinary – nothing
special at all (and, you
too, by the way).

It’s the snowflake
thing; the ‘every single
one is unique’ (which is
not true – repeating
patterns and possibilities
– just not enough time
or data to prove the one
and/or the many).

Since we’re all
unique, and uniqueness
is what each and every one
has in common, then
no one of us – you, me,
him, her, us, them – is (are?)
unique (adjective; one
of its, her, his kind).

Moral ethicists wish
to motivate the
Bourgeois, hoi polio
to aspire, to rise above
the status quo, keeping-up
all dying but not all living
claptrap that sells
books and seminars.

No matter how
many times we’re told,
how much consolation
we gain from being consoled
by such dreams, we all
are the same in that;
all together, altogether,
all are all alike.

All die because
all live, all are alive because
all die; we all all
face the same doubt
of dignity, of compassion;
because, not in spite of
our biology.

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.

What is original about sin…

History of Sin

History a tale of fallen’s friends
giving account of what had to be,
fixed by a sovereign who sees the end
saddled with a desire to be free;

lost to be found, but only through Rome
intrude on our lust, our passion, home,
named ex opere – the lusty lie
sprinkle the babies lest they all die;

create the fright, threaten what’s scary
touch our babes, but still necessary,
triumph assured, all wars justified
feelings condemned not capitalized.

Who erred that all are born this way
simply answered, we all come astray,
it’s sin, not hunger, that babies cry,
and not biology why we all must die.

I’d prefer not to die…

Ode Not to Dying

In this poem no one will die
no one is sick or will grieve
it’s not that everyone’s blissful
for that would be a silly lie
but we could use a reprieve
from the funereal hymnal.

This could be about life or joy
pleasant parks, a May flower
yet some don’t love Spring
allergies and rain may annoy
for some it’s love turned sour
or that they’re denied a ring.

Can-do bravery is pleasing
psalms of life, into the valley
when others perish bravely
we’re moved to day seizing
coup de grâce to de foudre
lifely lived, lively not gravely.

But I’m Irish – death’s our theme
the grave the cradle’s twin
gentle Lady silenced by Joyce
Heanley’s Naturalist midstream
Yeats killed off Paddy Flynn
Wilde at the grave’s lost voice.

But I’ve promised no decay
disease, mortality or demise
instead we’ll think of the morn
and life as a grand parfait
beauty we will not despise
nor emote so as to mourn.

So here is the happy end
ever after, fondly, cheerful
hoping you feel better with this
and sleep better, life commend
laughing instead of tearful
and not dying (today) is bliss.

Then there is the miracle
when death is itself done in
but how often does that occur;
hope is fine, gullibility satirical
and none escapes original sin
for death one may not defer.