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 just a few of my favorite poems and tell stories; 
play some music, preferably performed;
and have lots of sweet, raucous laughter.

Let slip that I carried a childhood charm later in life,
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 when we stop asking questions,
we also stop thinking; that I was an existentialist
and 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 of being alone,
and how I spent retirement afraid of pension theft.
Make them aware that public pensions are contracts,
no matter what liars and thieves claim otherwise.

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 other identity
and losing my savings to 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 learning, and it is through music, philosophy,
poetry and art that we highlight our happiness
and soothe our sadness.

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

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

Remind them how much I savored my guitars,
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 
lived comfortably,
and that I loved caramel apples,
apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple pie
and, of course, my mother,
but not America’s hegemony, bigotry
and political insanity.

And that nights filled with stars,
my mother’s Calabrian cooking
and her 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 fond memories of my childhood.

And that it is old age who arrives
unannounced one day
emptying his suitcase of inflictions 
and over stays his welcome.
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 now belongs to you. 

So exaggerate just a little 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 wishing to die
after I left an éclat to posterity.

Or was it something else I wanted to say?
A cliché perhaps?
Like everything of value in life
is revealed through what we love.


  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!