Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For Thanksgiving week: "Walking on My Grave" (Eugene C. Bianchi)

"Walking on My Grave"
(Eugene C. Bianchi)

Walking on my grave-to-be, I invite
Mr. D from the other side of the river.
You can’t be too pushy about this
lest you scare him off, expect big answers
to bigger questions when all he wants
is beer and pretzels and maybe a slow stroll
around the spiral labyrinth to sit by the capstone
of the small burial vault for animal cremains.
You might start with a joke about not letting
morticians have all the fun shooting up
my corpse with bad botox, proven not to last
with no money-back guarantee, amid all that
palaver about how fine they look in our coffin
(echoes of my nonna who couldn’t believe
how nicely people cleaned up for wakes).
It’s not death’s certainty but its uncertainties
that interest me and elude conscious mind
bogged down with tedious theories of afterlife,
instead of grasping it as an ungraspable whole,
the way an artist sees his nude by the window
full and stark for the quickest sketch of
her body’s vital thrust and mystic lore,
with details coming later or not at all.
So I slow Mr. D down with drink and snacks. 
Am I more fearful of dying than saner folk 
and need to allay my terror with garden games?
Maybe, maybe, but does it matter?
Only a dunce would not regret death’s losses,
those beautiful days and shining eyes and
friends who bring chicken soup when you
fall off your horse or divorce a second wife.
There’s lots of time for Mr. D to scare me
as I gasp for breath on a sweaty night
or in turbulence at thirty thousand feet
when I envy and dislike the calm pilot who says
that we didn’t really need that second engine.
No, plenty of time for such episodes and more.
I’d just like to approach him slow walking
`round and `round balancing our beers to ask
what he’s picked up along the way about the Big Ones:
God, Purpose, Loss, Suffering, bursts of unexpected Joy.
He’ll probably tell me to pour him another, no pretzels,
sit near the capstone, admire the ferns and cast iron plants,
shut my mind, let myself float on this sea of contradictions,
buoyed by the salty wisdom of ambiguity.

"Walking on My Grave" by Eugene C. Bianchi appears in the poet's new collection Ear To the Ground: Poems for the Long View. Bianchi was in the Jesuit order for twenty years, and is Professor of Religion Emeritus, at Emory University in Atlanta. His other poetry collections include Grief of Chickens, Washington Rhythms, and God Bored. He has published many books and articles in the areas of spirituality, creative aging, church reform and issues of culture and religion, as well as a memoir, Taking a Long Road Home (Wipf and Stock, 2011). He lives in Athens and maintains a blog about creative aging. 

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