Poetry About Death

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.

Rain Man (you knew this was coming)

RIn a scene from my childhood, I watched through our living room window as kids my age played in a rainstorm. They were laughing and having a wonderful time getting soaked. The streets and gutters were awash. One boy sat down in a flooded gutter as the water pushed against him and splashed hard around his body. I felt envy. Not because they were having fun without me, but because they were playing in the rain. I was home with my mother, and she told me that I couldn’t go out because I would get soaked and catch my “death-of-cold.” I have since learned and admit more about myself, and about colds.

Rain 1The word ‘pluvial’ refers to rain or something characterized by abundant rain. The suffix ‘phile’ denotes fondness. Consequently, a pluviophile is one who finds joy and peace of mind on rainy days. I was taught that rainy days were sad, as in the Carpenters song lyric; “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” I was to believe nice days were sunny, cloudless, and warm. I’ve never felt that way. Sunny and pleasant days have their place, but few are enough. Later in life, I admitted to liking cloudy, rainy days. I now identify as a pluviophile. These days, I’m often asked why, after more than twenty years in California, Texas, and Florida; I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest. I ask, “Do you know what a pluviophile is?” Like it should be news to me, I’ve repeatedly been told “it rains a lot there.” I reply with a smile, “Yes, it does.”

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” ~ John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs

ShawshankRainWide-1 Rain 4My involvement with rain changes with its many forms. Scientific names apply based on how it comes about. But, I am talking about how the rain itself varies from torrential downpour to a gentle drizzle. Duration, wind, thunder, lightning, air temperature, and other factors contribute to our experiencing rain. There are times of rain just falling, and times with thunder and lightning. There is morning rain, afternoon rain, and rain at night. Each is emotionally and physically encountered differently. It can be seen and heard while keeping dry, thus precluding feeling the rain. Only outdoors can we dance in the rain. If I don’t perceive rain with senses—I just get wet. Our world changes when it rains. We need it, just as we do sunshine. To me life smells, feels, looks, and sounds more alive in the rain. In the city, rural areas, and in the forest, everything improves. When I am with the rain, I heal and recover. It’s a spiritual exposure difficult to explain. I’m not especially spiritual, but in rain I sense life — nature.

street_by_night_2_innsbruck_by_maradong Rain 2I recently delayed my daily walk when rain was forecast. After waiting for the rain to start, I donned shorts and tee. I was off in good spirits, expecting to be, and was, soaked. After an hour, I was back home. I sat on a dry and covered bench, removed my soaked shoes and socks, slapped water from my dripping baseball cap, and chuckled. I was thinking how others might consider me deranged. But, this is why I’m here.

Nighttime rain is different—good, but different. There’s more drama on rainy nights. When I have a challenging day, I like to experience night rain by imagining the character of Mike Hammer from a Mickey Spillane crime novel. I picture me on a dark, moonless night; standing under a lamp post illuminating my silhouette. With muffled, distant thunder following flashes of light, rain sparkles from the beams of the light post. I wear the characteristic trench coat with raised collar and a gray fedora,Rain 8 tilted forward and cocked right. The front brim bent slightly downward with water flowing off. The sound of falling rain is all around. I hear it splash into puddles and onto sidewalks. With water moving everywhere, I forget the day’s problems and the annoying people. But mystery is afoot. Like it or not, Mike Hammer is involved. And of course, there is a woman. As Hammer, in the writing of Spillane, I mumble, “In the flora and fauna of the Bowery, she was a lot of flora and quite a bit of fauna. She looked like she belonged in a field of Wyoming wildflowers instead of wandering through the human backwash of the avenue.” In the night rain, I can do this. Rain brings magic and drama.

I’ve passed through forest after a rain. My senses were filled with sights, sounds, and the aroma of nature. There I can see and feel it because everything is wet. For me, awareness of water is experiencing the essence of living.

Tony-Yazbeck-in-Singing-in-the-Rain-Drury-Lane-Theatre Rain 5Let’s take life, rain or shine, one day at a time. It’s about how we feel. We’re not alone in our emotional response to rain. In the Pacific Northwest, we love the outdoors, rain or shine. Too much shine and we miss the rain. After some rain, we’re ready to let a little sunshine in. “In every life a little rain must fall….” Of course, and why not?

“The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected; I have always considered the rain to be healing—a blanket—the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God

Quotes

Originally, I planned to list a few of my favorite quotes. Then, I decided to ask my wife and three adult children for theirs – from music, movies, or literature. But any quotes or sayings were fine. After they got going, it turned into quite a game for them.

YolondaYolonda, my wife of 50 years (we married at age 2), is a native Texan and has her ‘druthers.’

“Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” ~ Song by Travis Tritt

“Goodness gracious, great balls of fire.” ~ Song by Jerry Lee Lewis

“Love will keep us alive.” ~ Song by the Eagles

“Life’s a dance you learn as you go, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.” ~ Song by John Michael Montgomery

“I’m Texas born and Texas bred, and when I die, I’ll be Texas dead.” And, “You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.” ~ Texas sayin’s

BillyBilly on right, (w/Phish bassist Mike Gordon), our oldest child is in his mid-40s, a very nice, loving, big-man. He’s always been an avid reader, a talented writer, a movie aficionado, and a hard-core Phish-head. Add bicyclist, father, hubby, friend, musician, and deep-thinker.

“San Francisco in the middle sixties was a special time and place to be a part of it. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run…but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of the time and the world. Whatever it meant…” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

“You’re either on the bus…or off the bus.” ~ Ken Kesey

“Dreams come true; without that possibility nature would not incite us to have them.” ~ John Updike

“We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one.” ~ John Updike

“I love you, Butternuts.” ~ From the movie Half Baked. (horse’s name was Buttercup)

“Wherever you go, there you are.” ~ Book, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Whatever you do take care of your shoes.” ~ Lyrics from Phish song, Cavern

“Set the gearshift to the high gear of your soul…you’ve got to run like an antelope out of control.” ~ Lyrics from Phish song, Run Like an Antelope

StevenSteven is our middle-child, now in his early 40s. He’s another good guy. An avid sports fanatic (Spurs and Cowboys) and mountain biker. Add hubby, step-father extraordinaire, house music DJ (Steve Balance), friend, and all-around cool-dude (maybe pragmatic and analytical). He initially said that he had no fav quotes, but when he and his sista’ got to texting, there they were.

“I am Groot.” ~ Repeated by Groot, a sentient alien character embodied in the shape of a tree and member of Marvel’s superhero team ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ Due to its frequent appearance in the 2014 film adaptation of the comic book series, the quote quickly gained recognition among the fans of the film, similar to the fan art surrounding the phrase Hodor, which is the only phrase uttered by the character in HBO’s medieval fantasy TV series Game of Thrones.

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over” ~ Willie Nelson Song made more famous on Monday Night Football by Don Meredith.

“That’s what I love about these High School girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” ~ David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused. (Billy also liked this one)

“Would I ever leave this company? Look, I’m all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I’m being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly…. I’m going wherever they value loyalty the most.” ~ Dwight Schrute in TV show, The Office

“Got a joint man? …. Be a lot cooler if you did.” David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused.

I’m not superstitious, I’m only a little stitious.” ~ Michael Scott

Julie and CAOur beautiful ‘baby’ is Julie. She can recite every line from the movie Grease (oddly did not quote it), is an artist, a thirty-something, 21st Century hippie, a mom and step-mother. I think she is a wonderful writer and, like her mom, a Grammar-Nazi. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her hubby, son, occasionally a step-son, or two lovely elves, too many cats, horses, and sometimes (because he likes to chase the horses) a dog.

“Tell me about the f***ing golf shoes.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson, from movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” ~ Max Ehrmann

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~ Dr. Seuss

“Woman are like tea bags; we don’t know our true strength until we’re in hot water.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“So, Jesus is a superhero like Superman, or Batman, right?” ~ Julie’s 10-year-old son, CA, at age four.