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.

 

Driving Home

I am seventeen and

Driving home from ballet at 10 pm,

Dense pine forests whirring

Past my headlights, darkness

Enveloping the two orbs of light;

Hardly another soul on the road, my

Body feels numb and remote;

My consciousness drifts, barely

Aware that my toes are pressing

The accelerator down a little further

As I wonder what it would be like

To punch it to the floor and

Veer suddenly

Into the

Quiet trees