Candle for today

July 14, 2020

an afterlife

June 7, 2020

Some people believe in an afterlife. I do not; what I say will be based on the assumption that death is nothing, and final. I believe there is little to be said for it: it is a great curse, and if we truly face it nothing can make it palatable except the knowledge that by dying we can prevent an even greater evil. Otherwise, given the simple choice between living for another week and dying in five minutes I would always choose to live for another week; and by a version of mathematical induction I conclude that I would be glad to live forever.

Thomas Nagel
The View from Nowhere

Haywire

July 29, 2019

When I was a kid,
there was always someone old
living with my friends,
a small, gray person
from another century
who stayed in a back room
with a Bible and a bed with silver rails.

They were from a time before the time
the world just plain went haywire,

and even though nothing
made sense to them anymore,
they’d gotten used to it,
and walked around smiling vaguely
at the aliens ruining the galaxy
on the colour console television,

or the British invasion
growing from the sides of our heads
in little transistorized boxes.

In the front room, by the light of tv,
we were just starting to get stoned,
and the girls were helping us
help them out of their jeans,

while in the back room
someone very tired
closed her eyes and watched
a wheat field where a boy
whose name she can’t remember
is walking down a dusty road.

No sound
but the sound of crickets.
No satellites,
Or even headlights in the distance yet.

George Bilgere

I’m probably going to die
at midnight.

Don’t worry—
I’ll set the timer on the coffee pot
before I go.

The crows will be up with me
and the witches.
I’ll watch them through the window
and they’ll watch me back.

I’ll crack the window
so I can smell
stew simmering in cauldrons.
I’ll give some thought
to how it might taste—
boiled lizard eyes
& toad brains
& fingernails of newt.

You’ll be asleep
but that’s okay.
The crows will bob their heads
in time to your snoring.

This morning, a witch came to our door.
She didn’t seem gloating or gleeful
or even wicked.
Not much.

She had a card with my name on it.
She gave it to me.
She tipped her black hat
and went back down the drive.

We thought you might want to know,
the card said.
Don’t worry too much.
It happens to everyone.

Maybe the witch had cast
a calming spell on the card
because I’m not concerned
about dying.

I’m ready to settle in with the crows
and smell the boiling hummingbird’s feet.
I’m ready to leave you with a clean oven
and coffee ready in the pot.

I’ll miss you
but I suspect the crows
will keep us up to date.
They talk to the dead, I think.
They must be watching something
with those keen, staring eyes.

Rachel Swirsky

From Dear Sal

March 14, 2019

An ancient city of light is buried
in my chest. Before the French (or was it
the Germans) my father tucked it in there
& placed me on a boat. Be a good little
smuggler & forget our names. At night
I opened my mouth to the water & strange
shapes came to investigate. I begged them
to absolve me. The Lord spared the animals
guilt, for in the wild everything that lives
lives instead of something else. A quiet life
has turned me earth – soft mud & eggshell.
When you kissed me a stove flicked on,
generators began to hum. We left each
other like altars in a bombing run. In this
room where you are not, night lowers itself
all around me. I stare at my fingers – little
archaeologists clutching brilliant shovels.
They leap from my hands & begin to dig.
After unsayable years, the clay, remnants
of lamps, & then the city, & then the light.
The archaeologists cart its body to a fountain
where old women drop their buckets & fall,
wailing like chimneys, to their knees. A boy
is healed when his wound is brought & bared
before the glow. Of course the government
intervenes, as they must always intervene,
orders it cloaked in metal & dropped upon
a country. But there it wraps the children
in shawls of unfused atoms, their mothers
in gowns of light-silk, & fathers fall asleep
in trenches while rifles morph into violins
playing as we waltz in a room by the river,
as the light melts our shadows into one
shadow, & Sal, we thought, we thought
we were dead, but we are not yet
finished dying.

Jeremy Radin

When Death Comes

January 22, 2019

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver

Cat

It started when the waiter saw me look down as though a meteor
lay burning through the table cloth.
His eyebrows ran together
in a line and, as if playing a game,
his fingers rippled through the air above the salt.

Another appeared on my left side, introduced himself as
‘Franco’, rolled his name like a conjuror, pulled out
a napkin, did it so fast I thought he must have
injured himself,
thought the red linen would splash me,
mark me
in a way I did not want to be
marked.
Not then.
In three oval bowls of warm water,
slices of unpeeled lemon cling to the surface.
I do not understand anything in the menu,
must have read it three or four times.
This is where we go for tapas and I know now
this means ‘lid’.
On this night, words are thin shapes
black, hanging and ridiculous.
French beans. Catalan ham, Dinner. Lunch. Private Functions.
The wine list, wrapped in padded, buttoned red leather.
The gilt chair. A darkness of velvet. Was it curtains or cushions?
I try to keep
from running
back there,
to the room with hissing door hinges,
clear tubes,
the sound of breathing that is not the breath of life to me
any more than it would be to him.

That noise has become our song,
the reason we know where we are. That’s why people have songs,
isn’t it,
to take them to the same place, at the same time?

Would it seem, somehow awkward
or out of place to slide
across the floor,
over the veined cream tiles,
avoid the three legged barstools,
to push the impossible glass door,
pause at the astonished face
of the girl who took our coats,
to explain,
‘Tonight, I cannot eat calamari,
tonight I cannot eat chorizo?
I don’t care that tonight’s
tortilla is fresh,
layered with onion and almost absurdly yellow.
I know the aubergines were
smoked this evening and the flat-bread,
spread with concass of green tomatoes and toasted halloumi,
was once
a Moorish delicacy.
Put my coat away,
or put it on,
throw it into the street.
I don’t care.
My father never liked it.
He is dying, he is dying, dying tonight. He may even be
doing it
now’.

(Rosie Shepperd)