The death poem, and how I spent yesterday and today

This was a typical western Oregon spring day–a little sunshine, a modest deluge, a little more sunshine, more rain, a little more sunshine, and so on. It was a great relief after several days of slogging that the weather was too bad to go work in the garden. No point, she said, in compacting the soil unnecessarily. . .

Yesterday was my day in town for writing, a critique group at 1:30, a writing exercise group at 4:30. I stopped on the way in to see the friend of mine who is busily engaged in actively dying. He’s close enough to the end that hospice is already involved.

Fred has been a terrific mentor to me, one of my kindest critics and true role models (he’s even ornerier than I am, if that’s possible). He said, “I’m on my way out.” I replied that we all are, it’s just a difference in our timetables. I gave him a copy of two new poems, the death poem and a silly piece about numbering systems, more or less. His wife said when he read the one titled “Less Than Nothing Is Still Something,” a poem about negative numbers and how they influence our thinking, he smiled and asked her to tell me that we were still on the same page and I should keep throwing those words out there. I love this guy. His infirmity is leaving a hole in my universe.

My first experience with the death of someone I was close to, both mentally and in age, was about 20 years ago. His legal name doesn’t matter; he always went by the name of the town that housed his favorite brewery–Tumwater. He was a great bear of a man, with hugs and belly laughs to match his physique. He died rather quickly and unexpectedly of cancer, leaving those of us who were close to him to suspect that something wasn’t quite right in the universe.

I got good feedback in the critique workshoip, but frankly my afternoon writing session was s***.

Here’s what I should have done today since it was raining too hard to garden:

  • Cleaned the bathrooms
  • Organized my library of poetry books
  • Put fresh sheets on the spare bed
  • Swept the entire house

Instead, here’s what I did today:

  • Cooked breakfast
  • Read the paper
  • Cooked lunch
  • Browsed the new BiMart flier
  • Read The Economist
  • Disposed of two days’ worth of junk mail
  • Opened up the new issue of The Hedgehog Review
  • Got trapped by it

Now here I am writing in my blog instead of doing any of the productive things I should have done.

The Hedgehog Review is one of those weird publications I subscribe to. Technically it’s a juried academic journal published by the University of Virginia. It’s interdisciplinary, and each issue is themed. This quarter’s them is “Intellectuals and Public Responsibility.”

I read about half of it, and it really depressed me. Most of the essays are explaining why if people who think about things withdraw from public discourse, the result is disastrous. But that’s my inclination at the moment: to withdraw from public discourse. I am so disgusted by the things I see around me that I don’t even find them worth railing against. A sad situation.

Now I have to go cook dinner.

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6 Responses to “The death poem, and how I spent yesterday and today”

  1. theinnerbalance Says:

    Hi, my name is Leigh, and I am so there with you…it IS positive to sometimes withdraw from public discourse…considering how we are so inundated by the negative. It is amazing how blocked we can become just by observing (aka absorbing) people’s dramas and issues…even if it’s on tv or a toxic person.

    Just thought I would put in my 2 cents. HAVE A GREAT DAY! It’s a full moon! 🙂 xxxx

  2. mklekacz Says:

    Hi, Leigh, and welcome.

    It’s a tough call. At Winter Fishtrap this year I listened to some excellent presenters talk about the necessity of “detached” thinkers for their capability to bring some balance to our polarized society. Then I get this issue of Hedgehog which is chastising those who have chosen to be detached. So I’m just doing what I’m comfortable with (very selfish, but I feel a need to be selfish at the moment).

    I’m very aware of the full moon. We have a 9′ picture window in our bedroom, and it wakes me up about three in the morning like a spotlight. You can darned near read by it.

  3. ombudsben Says:

    I think there is an ebb and flow to it. I have energy to participate in discourse and volunteer work sometimes, but I also need to withdraw at others.

    So I think each is right, according to your need. After a rest, sometimes one is ready to engage again in a project, weighing the cost/benefit in terms of how much of your energy it might take to effect anything positive.

  4. mklekacz Says:

    Ben, I think you’ve got it. But the Puritan ethic I was raised with says it’s not OK to duck out just because you don’t feel like dealing with things. I have to deal with that, too.

  5. jennylitchfield Says:

    You struck a chord. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of blah and I just have to strike out for some airspace. A current affairs item last week showed people the world over are walking faster in the course of the busy-ness of their daily lives. No time to chat – I’m late, I’m late (all as mad as the march hare). Little time to gaze and wonder it would seem. Tonight, as I look out the window, I can see the Southern Cross and other constellations and satellites as they traverse the clear night sky. Now, that is something.

  6. mklekacz Says:

    I love going out on clear nights. We have no ambient night light here, so the number of stars that show up is truly mindboggling. It does help me put my place in the universe in perspective. . .

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