Sunday, November 2, 2014

For My Eulogist

Tell them I did not want a church and prayers,
a priest’s hopeful praising
of an invisible deity and illogical immortality;
that I believed what a Pulitzer Prize poet once wrote:
“God knows nothing we don’t know.
We gave Him every word He ever used.”

Tell them I did not want a coffin and flowers either—
that rewind of god-awful dreariness and solemnity;
nor did I want collages or a slide show. Instead, 
share a few of my favorite poems and tell stories; 
play music, preferably performed;
and have lots of raucous laughter.

Let slip that I kept a childhood charm,
not owing to superstition or religious belief,
but only because the Vatican had “eternally released
[Christopher’s] duty and sainthood”
when they decided he was more legend than reality.
Be sure to tell them how much I loved irony.

Tell them moments are what we are
and to never stop asking questions
that I was an existential empiricist to the end,
a born-again skeptic and blogger;
that One life was [not] as good as another;
that it does matter” how we live each day
and to never “miss out on being alive
in a world where everything is given,
and nothing [can be] explained [with certainty].”

But confess to them how I wanted to die
before my wife did out of fear,
and how I was afraid of pension theft.
Tell them how I was terrified
of losing a child most of all,
the way some of my dear friends had lost theirs,
and how I worried about the harmful choices
my children sometimes made.

Divulge that dementia was in my narrative too,
if I had lived long enough
like my grandmother and father,
and how frightened I was about erasing
my identity by cyber crooks;
that it’s best to safeguard our money,
as long as “our heart is spent.”

And tell them how much I loved teaching
and it is through music, philosophy,
poetry, literature and art that we highlight 
our happiness and soothe our sadness.

And don't forget to tell them
how much I loved singing and playing
the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Neil Young
on my guitars, and listening to Mozart and Chopin,
the blues, and jazz—when it’s bluesy—and reading
Dunn, Dickson, Djanikian, 
Collier, Collins, Hoagland and other poets.

Remind them how much I savored 
my books, handguns, and black Lexuses
(as much as I craved dark chocolate)
and saving unwrinkled money —
things left behind to prove this dead collector 
also lived comfortably,
and that I loved caramel apples,
apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple cheesecake
and, of course, my mother,
but not America’s hegemony, bigotry
and political hypocrisy.

Proclaim how I loved my tabby cats,
my dearest friends and family,
and my beautiful wife, Marilyn —
“For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”

And that nights filled with stars,
my mother’s Calabrian cooking
and sewing machine’s hum,
the baseball glove’s oily perfume
and the spring’s night air,
bright autumn days, the crow’s cawing,
the wind’s homily swishing through trees,
wind chimes and crunching through leaves
were warm memories of my childhood heart.

And that it is old age who arrives
unannounced one day
emptying his suitcase of inflictions.  
And death is the final costume we will all wear
and “nowhere but where it will occur”
and is not mine to keep,
because it will belong to you someday. 

So exaggerate right now:
tell them I said something noteworthy
before I died, but that you
have since forgotten what it was,
though you think I might have whispered
Beethoven’s final words:
“Plaudite, amici, comoedia finita est”—
Applaud, my friends, for the comedy is finally over —
from my other poem about dying
and my hope to leave an éclat to posterity.

Or was it something else I might have said?
A cliché perhaps?
Like everything of value in life
is revealed through what we loved.


  1. "Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all - the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved."
    - Mark Twain's prepared memorandum to be quoted as his last words in 1910

  2. Thank you Glen and Ken - I am going to brazenly borrow these!

  3. "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."
    Marcus Aurelius
    Powerful sentiments and many I resonate with personally. Thank you for sharing but never fear ... You have lived with quality and purpose.

  4. I love this. I will share it with my dear husband.

  5. For you Glen, life was never a walking shadow. And it was a tale told by an outstanding and respected teacher. Need I say more? Bob Swynenburg