Poets write about many things. One is death.
Another is love. One could easily fill many book shelves with the love poems written just this year.
After working out this little ditty which touches on the part of death I call ‘the leaving and being left,’ I discovered another jewel by John Updike. It looks at death from the point of view of the artist (his).
I’ve added the brief reading video of the Updike poem below. If you enjoy poetry, art, are an artist, or may face death someday, it is worth a couple minutes of your time, in my opinion.
Let me Die
Please don’t sigh, when I cry, just kiss me now
and let me die.
Let me go
now to be.
Look at me and you will see,
when again together,
in death we’ll be.
Sigh and walk away –
to live what life’s left for you,
Not to fret and do not let
us to mourn this life or even death.
We had our time in love sublime
as you kiss me now upon my brow.
Bill Reynolds 11/01/2018
Perfection Wasted by John Updike
Wow! Look both ways; to life and to death.
Respectfully mind the gap; it’s where the dying lie.
The past happened without me, as will the future.
Beginning on what day will I no longer get out of bed?
Unable to remove the mask and walk away,
to pee or whatever. Will I know anything?
On what day will I no longer want coffee?
I can handle not to have. But not to want?
Does nirvana or moksha reflect happiness or denial?
On what morn I’ll no longer begin a day’s reading?
Is not my quest for knowledge stewed in desire?
To have and to hold, to want and to need. To care?
There’s more I want to know. Will I care? Do I?
Must I stop loving her on that day? As the Jones song goes.
Will my dignity be intact, or will it be the first to go?
Will I die in a puddle of shit? As many would see that as fit.
Will I remember my name, yours, where I am? Will I care?
Is there such a thing as death with dignity? Or do we
just pass on to return life for life? Don’t talk like that?
Away and towards. Turn, turn, turn. Say I love you.
After leaving Mary’s Country Café in Colorado City, I was feeling bloated and wondering how and why I packed away so much of their chicken-fried steak. I was driving down a depressingly hot and joyless west-Texas country road, 20 miles east of nowhere special.
The desperation of the settlers who first moved there is unimaginable for me. They didn’t even have a/c in movie houses, movies at all, or a/c for that matter. The middle of nowhere may be overused and trite, but this place is there.
My excuse for being here is that I married a native. Her family and what is now our tribe live around there. I reckon they don’t know any better, but I’m here cuz they are.
After a while, I spied one of them plug-in jobs on the roadside. Casually leaning against the car was a hot (in both senses of the word) little number lookin’ plumb distressed in her flipflops, cutoff jeans, and a sweaty, thin tanktop. She was on the highway side with her arms folded looking at her cell phone like she might get service. Not out there.
I forget which rule it is that says no honorable man shall pass such a sight without rendering aid, so I just pulled on over after slowly driving past. It was a hot dry day, too miserable to be stuck in a fix of any kind. But that sweet little pumpkin-head was dressed fer it.
“Howdy ma’am. I’m Billy Don Russel from o’r West Bumbfuch. Y’all doin’ a’right?
That little girl acted plumb excited to see me. “Oh-Em-Gee. Thank God!”
Did I mention she had long black hair pulled tight into a quarterhorse tail that was sitckin’ out the back of a ball cap, like they do? The cap said Daisy Riding Service.
I managed to keep my eyes on hers and my eyebrows down. Men in them parts follow a strict role or can’t be trusted. And women like that are usually packin’ small caliber. Texas, ya know. We got critters, some are human.
With a neighborly smile I asked her, “What seems to be the problem, young lady?”
She held up her key FOB and screeched through her bright white teeth for the world to hear, “My clicker thingy won’t unlock my effing door and I can’t get into my gee-dee car.”
“Would you like me to try, Ma’am?”
She handed me her keys. I quickly glanced around expecting to see if a candid cell phone was recording all this. First, I tried to open the door with the handle. Sure ‘nuff, locked. Pressing the unlock button changed nothing.
I looked closer at the metal portion of the key and then back at the distressed damsel. She gave me a “told ya’” expression and shrugged her hot, sweaty, bare shoulders.
I gently slid the metal portion of the key into the little hole near the door handle and twisted slightly to an audible click. Handing her the key, I suggested she drive off first to be sure everything else is ok. She got in her car and rolled down the window.
“Thanks, Grandpa. I’m so embarrassed.”
“You drive careful, young lady. It’s dangerous country out there.”
“Please don’t tell Mom or Dad. They already think I’m a brainless twit. Tell Gramma I said hi.”
I managed to get back into my pickup with a straight face. My wife asked, “What was that all about?”
I looked at her and smiled, “Jessica said to tell you howdy. I’ll tell ya the rest over dinner, but she was having some technological issues.”
“She didn’t know how to use it?”
“More like didn’t know how not to use it.”
Look both ways on them deserted roads.
Tumble weed and roadrunners will get cha if ya don’t mind the gaps.
I have always liked the Diamond Rio song, Norma Jean Riley, so it follows this dribble for no other reason than I like it.
Part 3 of 4: Norma Jean (not Riley) and Mac
I met Norma Jean and her hubby, but I recall little about either of them. He was quiet; she was not. I had no judgmental opinion, but my wife seemed to like them. That means they are “fine.” They were longtime residents of the neighborhood and had raised their kids there and all of that. But, we all have our foibles, right? So, I will set this up for you.
We rented the house on the cul-de-sac we lived in for three years. When we announced we planned to move, the owner put it on the market and sold it. The couple who bought the house had children, were of some middle eastern ethnicity or nationality, and of the Islamic faith. I never met them, but I may have seen them when they looked at the house, since it was being shown while we lived in it.
As I understand, after we moved (bless her heart) sweet ol’ Norma Jean, who is of the Southern Baptist tradition, went to meet and welcome her new neighbors. It’s what we do. Being neighborly, right? In classic, southern, Bible Belt fashion, she invited her new neighbors to attend church and especially invited the children to Vacation Bible School.
The father of the children explained to sweet Norma Jean that he and his family were Muslims. He added that while his family would be following their own religious tradition, Norma Jean and her hubby were invited to a sit-down discussion of religion so that they might understand Islam better.
I don’t know what Islamic sect or part of that tradition the family followed. The conversation ended there. I’m sure Norma Jean sweetly declined the invitation. But then, bless her heart, Norma Jean shared the experience and her take on it all with my wife.
Apparently, Norma Jean was quite upset (shocked?) by the invitation for a chit-chat on the topics of Jesus and Mohammed. In righteous indignation she contacted my wife and shared her venomous opinion of such a request. “I have never been so insulted,” is how she felt about it.
I asked my wife how Norma Jean could in good conscience invite a Muslim family to a Southern Baptist church and to Vacation Bible School, but be offended by an offer to compare notes, quid pro quo, especially about two of the three Abrahamic religions of the world.
Some things I will never understand. Most people I will never understand. Southern Baptists and Muslims are two groups that fit both categories. But, that is fine since it is unlikely that they understand me either.
Look both ways in comparing notes with others. Turnabout is fair play but mind the gaps.
The day 20 poem prompt of the 2018 NaPoWriMo challenges me to write a poem that involves rebellion. For example, defy a rule, or write something either funny or serious. My poem should open a path beyond the standard, hum-drum ruts that every poet sometimes falls into.
Warning, this poem is bleak. It is written to reflect panicked frustration and to respond to the prompt. The dark side of reality interests me. I am not disturbed by it and I accept its existence. Many of you feel the same or Stephen King would be a retired teacher today.
I use the f-word a lot here, cuz I use the spoken f-word a lot, except when I know some prudish soul may be crushed. So, if those two things bother you, please give this driveling twaddle the sack.
One more thing. I am fine. Please try not to think otherwise. Yes, I recently got some bad news, but that has nothing to do with this stream-of-dark-consciousness writing (and if it does, so what?). It’s hard enough to write without folks asking if I’m suicidal.
The poem is rebellion from my POV. If you do read this, and you happen to be, or have been, a Teacher of English grammar, take a deep breath and perhaps a glass or two of wine first. It is one sentence. I know. Many great poems (one of which, this is not) are.
one must dress like this or that and think thusly and carry this torch to that goal and be always right and feel like shit when not and one must win, always win, a looser dont be, dont say that is not me because bukowski said just do it, just do it, and live and work for the glory of no god or whatever, but to survive and whatnot, and to help them survive, the ones you love and them ya dont and its a beautiful life and we will all just fucking die because thats what we do in the end middle or start, and then go to some nonexistent haven or fucking hell foe-evah cuz ya didnt cross da tee or dit-da-dot on a dam i and smile for a kodak if yer not, then dont fucking try cuz anyway they all die no matter how hard ya try and then dunna fuckin cry, just be stoic, thats a lie but i dno why, just go along to get along and be different and ah independent thinker, just be creative and spell it my way in stripes with plads or circles, and socks wit sandals, and man-buns and feet with pit hair, lay and never lie, its all so jacked up nothin’ fucking matters so fuck it, and fuck it all.
(bill reynolds, 420 day y2k+18; freddie mercury tribute concert day; and a. hitler’s b-day)
Look both ways today to see who’s got the loco weed tea.
Allow no gaps of toke.