Day 131 – For Doreen

I forgot to put on sunscreen for the funeral. I didn’t even change out my sneakers for the heels I had packed the night before, so worried about being respectful. I thought those things would matter but death has a way of mocking the little formalities we observe. The dead don’t care what you’re wearing.

But you would’ve reminded me about the sunscreen. The two of us, forever indoors and longing for the beach, our weekends filled with texting screenshots of art projects and Amazon purchases, were so looking forward to the summer we’ve earned. You took your vitamins and your Claritin and paid extra for the UV protection in your sunglasses. I skid in daily on four hours of sleep and haven’t eaten a real vegetable in weeks. Something in the great cosmic milieu tells me there’s something unfair in you being the one who had to go, and me being the one who got to stay. I can’t even remember to put on sunscreen.

Your funeral was filled with the sort of people who would not, and did not, care if I showed up in sneakers. They did not mind that I obviously have the self-preservation instincts of a small child, as evidenced by my beet-red arrival to the memorial. They didn’t judge because you didn’t judge.

You were so well-loved by everyone. It took me by surprise how much I had come to love you, not because of who you are but because of who I am. It may be self-centered to think about it, but I’m not sure I could scrounge up more than a handful of people if my funeral was tomorrow. I burn too many bridges. But you never did; even those who managed to offend you were treated with your signature grace. You left this world with no enemies, and you left it far better than you found it.

So perhaps, in the great cosmic milieu, there’s something fair after all about you being the one who earned that endless summer vacation, and me being the one who has to keep struggling on without you. Where you are you don’t need sunscreen; I’ll try to remember mine from now on.


Day 96 – The Greater Death

I have tasted this bitter cup before,
thrown rocks in its ponds and
kicked up the muck of its waters.
I have drowned before
and I will drown again without fear;
for the greater death was always to lay
clinging to life on the grassy hill
while everyone else
jumped in.

Day 94 – Run-Over Dog

You are suffering, scraping by
like a run-over dog down the freeway
I can’t stand to see you this way
but it’s me who’s done it to you

I said there were bigger butterflies
to go traipsing after, pin in hand
everything I decide to get
dooms another to be forgot

but I swear I won’t leave you to die like this
I’ll be coming back for you, soon as I can
just promise you won’t rot away
if I take too long

Day 75 – Fondest Holiday Wish

it is inappropriate
to discuss my
existential ennui
at the dinner table;
the sweet release
of death
is especially forbidden
at Thanksgiving.

It seems my
daily experiences
and in fact,
my fondest holiday wish,
are best served
in gravy,
barely there,
and if there
very quietly.

Day 56 – The Slower Death

Today I was a distinguished panelist
at a collegiate symposium
speaking about my experience
in the education profession.

I know.
I don’t believe it either.

Immediately after I had the urge
to listen to Post Malone
while drinking Red Bull
maybe buy a blunt
off of somebody in the bathroom
drive too fast and prove
I’m not a grownup, not really.

But I can’t do that, either
because I’m too old
and that shit’s just not cute.

So I’ll take the slower death
of continuing my work
with a bucketful
of Halloween candy.

Day 55 – Speaking in Tongues

I wanna write that poem
the one that’s been festering like a bullet wound
for ten years,
rips through like a migraine in the dark
though I desperately need the sleep-
the old war wound
from battles I never fought
deaths I never died
but felt every sting

I want to grow a rose so perfect
and then crush it between two sheets of paper
five thousand other poems just like it
inside your grandmother’s pillowcase

I wanna sell that poem for thirty silver pieces
publish that pain and buy a rocket and some morphine
and never feel again

And I’ve been trying
lord knows I’ve been trying
but it comes out like it always has
for the last ten years
and I’m so tired
of speaking in tongues