To Marry and Die

Not all heroes and heroines 
must marry and die.  One must
be born first.  Born into reason,
nature and spirit.  Filled with
a bit of mystery.  Stirred
by the hands of fate.  And witness
the flowering of a day lily.  And
the sighing pshaw of the chickadee.
Each moment may bring surprise
but more often than not it will 
be followed by another moment.
Sometimes my day passes 
trying to get at the meaning
of yesterday.  Did I worship
everything meaningfully?  And,
how important was it for me
to do so?  Maybe greeting
a passerby is more than enough.
Enough does not have to be the best.
Time still follows the worst which, 
though crushed, can no longer witness
how it becomes history.  Perhaps,
and again perhaps, what is worn
and what becomes do not have
to marry and die.

Perishing

"...the bourgeois individual perishes ingloriously..." - Reinhold Niebuhr

Nothing like going down in flames to warm the soul.
Or, perhaps a slow decay should draw more attention
as atom after atom zip off into the realm of the ether.
One eternity becomes another in each moment in time;
one particularity an opportunity for the next.  We study
some moments as if they were more eternal than others;
points in time where death visited with fanfare and fingers
pointed, astonished, like death had never happened before.
The last act of God in history may very well be a fizzle but 
that does not mean that nothing in the here and now
should not make some sort of sense to the ones perishing.

To Live, Just Once

I keep "Minute" perpetually on my shopping list,
hoping to find one on the grocery shelf tucked 
between the dried blueberries and granola.
And then to find another and another and another.

A strange way to seek immortality - no less bizarre
than traipsing off through a jungle in search of some
mythical fountain of life where a sip of bubbling water
promises an additional breath for each breath drawn.

To live another day - to experience one more hurricane,
more casualties of war, a sunrise and another summer
of the buzz of cicadas - with permission from life
to get out of bed and to be a beginner again.

Is one experience of body-surfing a wave into the beach
not enough?  The taste of banana taffy again?  To hold
the hand of my beloved?  Or do I search for more time 
afraid that, like birth, death will only happen once?

Maintenance Required

I cannot imagine a soul apart from the body.
And, I understand the dynamics
of soul-attachment are not meant for me to know.

But if I, my soul, am to float away up into the heavens
upon whatever breeze that blows when I die,
I would like to enjoy the ride with the body 
that I leave behind.

There are those, perhaps many, who look forward
to that day of detachment from disease, paralysis
and fear that inhabits the corporeal.

Yet, what is this the Psalmist writes, God keeps
alive and restores souls?  Does this not change 
the yearning for moving along after death 
if maintenance is still required?

After the Memory of Death

I remember my life after death
where my body no longer struggles

     against the struggles which a body longs for
     thrown into the pool where fear plays.

Playful fear splashes in the neighbor's pool
making cries mocking the pull of drowning.

     The mockingbird cries pulling drowning
     sorrows into the radiance of blue.

Blue radiates, mirroring the drops of sorrow
upon the neat page listing summer plans.

     Summer pages turn neatly as plans list
     according to the number of joyful shouts.

I shout with joy counting the number
of times I live after the memory of death.

Demands

What is the chance for destruction 
     to follow the same path,
     by wind or by water or by fire,
     twisting, taking, turning,
     collecting possessions
     into its embrace?

Is the death of one child not enough
     or must the demands
     of the demons who cry, More,
     make offerings a daily ritual,
     to be met with trembling
     and with tears once again?

Enough

     "Well, alrighty then."
               - Sydney Marie Brotheridge
                  b. December 28, 1995
                  d. June 9, 2018

Is the death of a daughter a fable or a myth
Or a reality of grief that inflates one moment
And then, after enough tears have dropped,
Subsides into an uncomfortable calm
Holding a picture with my arm
Around her alive, smiling-faced body?

Is the resting of my head on her shoulder 
Outside a skating rink during a birthday
Celebration enough to protect her 
And, as often as I smile with her smile
Or her smiling with my smile, can it happen
All the time and everywhere?

Is there enough time and can it be measured
Between the first time I held this delicate child
With a lifetime ahead of her and the last time
I held her in Dar es Salaam as she breathed
Her last breath perhaps hearing me whisper,
“You are loved, Sydney Marie”?

Is there a way to find a completely different
Way with which to examine attachment
To a life filled with enough demons of despair 
And with enough angels of shining brilliance,
To find a way forward and not necessarily through
Or over the abyss of deep hurt and great loss?

Is the answer to the great question of Being
Found in the act of a tiny body laid out
On a stretcher being taken to the morgue
Or in a ceremony at the foot of a mountain
With enough gathered loved ones and friends 
Mourning a life joyfully lived and now complete?

Chicago, May 2021

I stare at a picture of the great metalled Ferris wheel 
from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and lose myself 
in the number of people who went for a spin so long ago.

Fifty years later, Picasso, stares into the cave
of Lascaux and, upon seeing the dancing animals
painted on the walls, declares, They've invented everything.

And what about all the children that died 
before the age of five or the mothers that died 
in childbirth before the miracles of modern medicine?

Is there nothing so distinctly sweet,
so sweet,
as real bananas picked from the Peruvian 
rainforest an hour before breakfast?

There I stand in a picture from seven years ago with my arms around a daughter who no longer exists. That she lives in my memory, yes.  And in some form of a heavenly afterlife, perhaps.  

Sometimes I pause, 
shake my hands and arms in the air, 
convulsively, 
and grin from ear to ear.  

I am mindful 
of the number of times 
I have returned 
from wherever 
I have gone.  
Many have not.