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 carried 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 when we stop asking questions,
we 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 loneliness,
and how I spent retirement afraid of pension theft.
Make them aware that Illinois pensions
are constitutionally guaranteed, no matter 
what liars and thieves claim.

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,
if I had lived long enough
like my grandmother and father,
and how frightened I was about erasing
my other identity 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, literature and art that we highlight 
our happiness and soothe our sadness.

And don't forget to say
how much I enjoyed 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
the poetry of Dunn, Dickson, Djanikian, 
Collier and Collins.

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 selfless wife, Marilyn —
“For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”

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 filled with 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 hoping 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 have 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!