Thirteen ways of looking at death

after Wallace Stevens

I.
People talk around death instead of about it,
like visitors to a hospital room
using small talk for a pillow
to smother the face of their fear,
ignoring the man on the bed,
his open mouth a cavern of whistling wind.

II.
Someone tied a Get Well Soon balloon
to the stiffened leg of a road kill,
its body bloated with the irony of death,
a deer never darting through the yellow blooms,
never pausing to chew
a mouthful of weeds,
never exhaling a plume of mist into the cold
from its wide black nostrils.

III.
If death is the face in the moon,
it’s because laughter is impossible
inside a vacuum.

IV.
An orgasm is the little death,
a moment when bliss
eclipses the senses,
putting the mind on another plane,
separate from this finite body.
The tragedy is the return.

V.
Each winter the trees expose
their skeletal hands,
decrepit fingers probing
the bluest of wombs.
Death is the gray sky.

VI.
The apple is born from dirt,
raised, and then returned.
The worm eats the apple,
the bird eats the worm,
the sky eats the bird.
All things are agents of death.

VII.
Death wears all reflections.
Death wears every shadow.
This skin is a mask,
worn over everything,
an imperceptible wind
bringing gooseflesh to the spine.

VIII.
A coffin lid closes
every second,
but for some, death is the torture
of living another day.

IX.
The knight plays chess with Death.
The waves crash against the cliff.
His horse stands uneasy in the sand.

X.
Death is the raven resting
in the bare branches,
the first green knives of spring
still buried beneath snow and ice,
black eyes searching
for movement.

XI.
The bottle of bourbon is empty.
This body will soon empty itself
of heat.
Sleep is as close as you get to death
following breadcrumbs
back to daylight.

XII.
I ask my grandfather why he prays on his knees.
Death.

XIII.
Is the sky blue on the other side?
What is a sky?
The dead live on an orange peel,
in perpetual torsion,
faces inside out.
Death plays a violin
made of Mozart’s skin,
it’s the saddest music possible
and impossible to perceive
except as a grain of sand
trickling through the narrow glass.

Jay Sizemore hates when you call writing a hobby. His work has appeared here or there, mostly there. He’s had a lot of time to change his mind about everything. Currently, he lives in Nashville, TN, or does he even exist?

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2 Responses to Thirteen ways of looking at death

  1. Rumrazor says:

    V, IX, and XII were particularly strong stanzas but I liked the entire poem.

  2. “The apple is born from dirt,
    raised, and then returned.
    The worm eats the apple,
    the bird eats the worm,
    the sky eats the bird.
    All things are agents of death.”

    Yea really.

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