16 April 2010

April Poem A Day Challenge Day 16

Just when I thought I would be bored by the prompts, along comes one that spun a poem from me immediately. It wasn't the poem I planned, but hey, you take what you get.

Poetic Asides: Maybe it's a little too close to tax day, but today's prompt is to write a death poem. You can write about a specific death or consider death as an idea. In the tradition of Emily Dickinson (and other poets), you could even address Death as an entity. Or you can surprise us with a different spin on the subject.

My poem ended up being about I woman I knew who knew she was going to die, and planned for her death – obsessively and down to the last detail. I suppose it was her way of taking some control over what was uncontrollable, but the depth of specificity she delved into was a little frightening. She not only planned for her death, but the things that happened afterward.

The attempt to control from beyond the grave was a novel concept for me. I suppose it is no different than the artists and poets who want to leave something behind, something for people to remember them by when they are gone. Something that says "I was here! Don't forget!" I can sympathize with that.

Here are a trio of poems by Emily Dickinson, (but not her most 'famous' one – "Because I Could Not Stop For Death"). Maybe it was the era she lived in that gave her such an interesting perspective. Emily Dickinson wrote many poems on death, where Death is a character, a persona, a companion rather than something to be feared. As usual, her punctuation and slant rhymes make you stop and think. "What is she really saying here?"


IT was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
It was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues, for noon.

It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos crawl,—
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.

And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine,

As if my life were shaven
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key;
And ’t was like midnight, some,

When everything that ticked has stopped,
And space stares, all around,
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns,
Repeal the beating ground. 20

But most like chaos,—stopless, cool,—
Without a chance or spar,
Or even a report of land
To justify despair.


DEATH sets a thing significant
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly

To ponder little workmanships
In crayon or in wool,
With “This was last her fingers did,”
Industrious until

The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves,
And then ’t was put among the dust
Upon the closet shelves.

A book I have, a friend gave,
Whose pencil, here and there,
Had notched the place that pleased him,—
At rest his fingers are.

Now, when I read, I read not,
For interrupting tears
Obliterate the etchings
Too costly for repairs.


THERE is a solitude of space,
A solitude of sea,
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be,
Compared with that profounder site,
That polar privacy,
A Soul admitted to Itself:
Finite Infinity.


No comments: