On Being Asked “Why Are You So Afraid of Death?”

Have you lived in eternity?

Revelled in it?

The thin pale veil

Of Belief and Meaning,

God’s Love, your everlasting soul,

Fluttering before your eyes,

Though you are not sure

what tethers it to you?

 

Have you ever wondered whether

A gentle breeze would be enough

To blow it all

Into the pale blue sky?

 

Have you lost eternity?

Has your familiar universe

Turned strange to you in an instant–

Vast, unknowable, and indifferent–

Your soul and God’s Love stripped away,

Time suddenly constricting you,

Eternity closed off to you,

And all of this happening

For no discernible reason?

 

Has panic tickled your ears and neck,

Heaved your guts,

Clenched your breaths,

When you think about death

And try to imagine non-existence?

 

 

Why am I so afraid of death?

I don’t know, ask

My grandmother who died from cancer,

Who wept on her last Christmas and

Whose eyes betrayed uncertainty

In the final days when Father Albert came

To administer her last rites.

 

Ask the chipmunk my cat paralyzed,

Who hid under my car and could not stop

The eyes rolling in its head, the breaths,

Shallow and fast, that heaved its chest,

The unmistakable signs

Of panic and fear

That recurred in my nightmares.

 

Ask anyone afraid of anything unknown, or

Do some thinking on your own;

Fear is not hard to imagine.

Blue

Kris Kristofferson

Liked his women with an air

Of unrestrained musicality,

As free as the free-spirited

Bobby McGee,

Who pretty much risked her life

Hitching them a ride

(Do you know how many people

Have been murdered that way?),

And expressed her love

Through someone else’s songs,

And exited quietly at stage right

Before he even got to know her,

Without explanation or reflection

(Probably because she soon was murdered…),

Leaving him sorrowful but in love–

The way a good fantasy

Woman does.

 

But when a real woman, self-assured,

Wrote her own sorrowful songs,

Unrestrained by regret or shame,

With the nuance of a self-aware adult

Reflecting upon the men she had loved,

And sharing with us all

An intimacy unparalleled–

The sadness of having a daughter

And not being able to be her mother–

And painting with words

An entirely new picture

Of what being human is really like

–he didn’t find it quite so charming.

 

“God Joni,” he said, “save something for yourself”,

As if he had the right to stop an icon in her tracks,

To tug her back into line,

As if saying that didn’t make him

A supreme ass.

 

What am I Today?

Check all that apply

    • A virginal sweetheart you’ll treat with respect?
    • A fragile creature you must protect?
    • A child to whom you must explain?
    • Meat over which you’ll salivate?
    • The pretty young thing you want to fuck?
    • Begging for you to touch my butt?
    • A magic vessel to bear your sons?
    • Over-emotional (must be that time of the month)?
    • Hysterical? Doctor knows the trick…
    • The slut you’ll tell to suck your dick?
    • The heartless bitch who walks away?
    • Something for you to dominate?
    • Less a person than a goal?
    • The succubus who’ll steal your soul?
    • A witch who’ll tempt you with my gaze?
    • Fickle betrayer, lying in wait?
    • Eve, the apple, the tree, and the snake?
    • Something less than the sum of its parts?
    • Every woman who’s ever broken your heart?
    • Your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife?
    • Your manic pixie dream of me, existing just to light up your life?
    • …Maybe, finally, just myself?

Pops

You liked sitting in the last pew,

The one with blue-cushioned chairs,

From which there was a clear view

Of a high stained-glass window

And the anguished face of our Lord on the cross

Gazing down at all of us.

 

I spent my childhood at your home:

Summers swimming in your pool,

Bare feet cool on your grassy lawn,

Picking hawkweed and dandelions–

Bursts of yellow and orange life–

Which sprouted near the old stone wall

That ran along your property line.

 

Your lawn was enclosed on all sides by trees–

Oaks, pines, white birch, blueberries–

Which sheltered us in their generous shade.

 

In fall, the oaks turned red as flames

Then one-by-one they dropped their leaves,

Which you always raked into one big heap

So my siblings and I could take turns

Burying each other inside,

The leaves now brown and autumn-sharp,

Smelling like the woods on Halloween,

And burst out screaming “Here I come!”,

A game we called “Dead Man Walking.”

 

You died when I was just sixteen

Of a heart attack,

At the hospital, almost all

The ones who loved you

By your side.

Except for me–

I was traveling

Between England and Ireland

When my mom,

Your only daughter,

Called two days later

To say

“Honey, Pops died.”