Posts Tagged ‘mortality’

Today it is somehow easy to know I will die.
Meeting mortality feels as possible, as natural
as inviting someone over for tea.
Caffeine or no caffeine, I ask.
Mortality shrugs as if it’s all the same.
I settle on the new tea I bought yesterday,
assam with rose petals. It’s dark and floral
and makes the mouth come alive.
You’re really not afraid of me today?
mortality asks. I shrug and say, Not right now.
We sip from our cups and stare out at the field
where the wind is whipping the tall grasses
in rhythmic pulses. “It’s good,” says mortality.
I nod. And we sit in content silence.
There just isn’t much to say.  
When our cups are empty, mortality
doesn’t leave. It occurs to me then
my invitation to tea wasn’t necessary.  
Mortality was already here.
It moves with me as I rise to clear the dishes,
as I wash the cups, as I walk out
into the wind, into the field.

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The Bidding

Again, I am ruled by it,
this invitation to be wildly open
the way a day is open,
this invitation to be porous
the way birdsong is porous,
this invitation to feel it all
the way skin feels it all when
I slip into a blue alpine lake.
Again this urge to fall all the way
into the mystery and refuse
any rope thrown in an attempt
to rescue me. Morning comes
with the scent of autumn,
charged with ripeness and rot
and the kinship of everything.
What an honor to be mortal,
to know the value of a day,
to know how vulnerable we are
and then give ourselves away.

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Practical Application

Knowing now how one moment
rewrites every moment after it;
how in an instant, the heart can trip
over its own beat and need to be retaught
how to love; how irreversible takes
only a second to say and yet
contains all eternity; how quickly our breath
can be claimed by the tides of forever,

for this I buy deep pink tulips for the table.
For this I make Dutch apple pie.
For this I walk through the canyon
in moonlight. I remind myself no guarantees.
For this, I pull you in and hold you. For this,
I stand still in the spruce trees and breathe.

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Still Life with Skull

they look hollow,

the sockets where the eyes

once were,

or is it the looker

who is hollow?


map of the skull—

all the places her dust has been,

all the places it will go


it is months

before he can tell her

that her skull is creepy,

that it scares him—

he hides it behind the books


across the brow,

a forever stamp,

a lotus, full bloom—

shhhh, don’t tell her

it’s already been canceled


golden wings in the back

of her skull,

is it any wonder

every morning

her thoughts fly east?


there are monks

who use skulls as a centerpiece—

perhaps as a symbol

of mortality, perhaps

because it’s lovely


there’s a red leaf

where her mouth would be—

here hung those lips

that loved

to kiss*


all around the skull on the table

are the skulls of the living,

so much shedding left to be done


behind the birding book

she finds the skull,

puts it on the table again


*”Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft,” in Hamlet, William Shakespeare

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In a Kitchen Far Away


for R



She skins the peaches

to freeze them

before they rot,

her hands moving over

the fruits that have already

sunk into themselves

and bloomed black.

There is such a thing

as too late.

Her own ending

implied by the blood test,

a dark bloom inside her.

Still, there is so much

sweetness to save.

Her hands glisten with it.



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The rose petals are gone.
No way to know now
what color they were.
The only perfume here
the scent of November.
The rose hips are dried,
splayed into brown stars.
I once thought that I
could bloom forever.
In our hands the leaves
crinkle and crush.
This is what we were born
for. To grow. To fall.
To know ourselves as dust.

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A gift for you my heart would bring—the sweet release of everything, the breath I take before I sing…
—Jan Garret, JD Martin and Lisa Aschmann

This is what
we were born for—
the almost unbearable
softness of grass,
the sweet perfume
of blue weeds in spring,
listening to voices
that cannot be heard,
and reaching for that
which can never be held.
The popping sound
of the daffodil bloom,
Having our hearts
ripped open, and again
ripped open, ripped open,
still beating,
the weeping, the salt,
the communion of blood,
the awkwardness of it all—
and the grace.
The wanting and
the wanting to not want,
the roar of the river’s brown shush,
wings we don’t have,
the new leafing out
of the old, old cottonwood tree
and the long walk
to the cemetery
not long enough.
Oh this beautiful ache.
Ashes, we are not ashes

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