Death and Words

Death and Words

Two people I knew died this week.
One was proud, bigoted, insincere, 
His constant smile hiding his latest scheme. 
The other one was humble, honest,
Her constant smile meant “I am here to help.”

Words were spent by all who knew them
To celebrate the good they did:
More words for one, enough for the other, 
But for the other, people cried
And felt that words could not express their loss.

So when I die, please do not write
At all—do not make me
Better in death than you ever found me:
If you have reason to cry, do,
Or else rejoice, or be indifferent,

But spare the living words that mean nothing,
And let the dead just go, in peace or not.

Promenade (NaPoWriMo 2022, #02)

They tell me there's a guy who tweets
of words obscure and rarely used.

I'm not on Twitter, but it's made
me think of my best friend at school,
who would announce, "In my essay,
I'll use the word promenade."
Whatever the topic chosen
by our teacher, he would succeed
in using his term of the day,
making it fit as if his whole
argument depended on it.

Anyone playing Spelling Bee
will tell you there is no such thing
as an obscure word: what's obscure
to me is not obscure to you
hoodoo, ocotillo, cicely,
larboard (never alee!) or yurt—
and words can always be explained
by other words, or translated,
or turned to gesticulation.

A word will never be obscure
if you can see it, hear it—
it's up to you to make it mean
what it needs to mean there and then.

Today’s prompt from suggested writing a poem “based on a word featured in a tweet from Haggard Hawks, an account devoted to obscure and interesting English words.” I am not on Twitter, and the little I could see in my browser I found a little boring and uninspiring, so here we are.

CPAP (NaPoWriMo 2022, #01)

Breathe in, breathe out, lay back, stretch out your limbs and feel—air flowing, each muscle relaxing, the comfort of a surface adapting to your body, resisting, giving in, the buzz of the machine…FLASH! Abrupt return to almost daylight, shock! What is it? “You forgot to put out the recyclables: it’s Wednesday.” Extend hand, turn off the machine. Lift one leg, slowly get up, no need to open your eyes, you know your way. Walk, but stay relaxed. Wardrobe: right. Door: left. Stairs: start counting steps: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Right, right again. Gate opener. Door. The bags, just where you left them in the afternoon. Steps: 1, 2, 3. OK, open your eyes for an instant, leave bags, go. FLASH! Someone else rushing home to get some sleep. Steps: 3, 2, 1. Door. Up again: 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Left. No, this is the study: next one. Right. Lay down. Extend hand. Turn it on. Nosepiece. Fine. Breathe in, breathe out, lay back, stretch out your limbs again and feel—pure oblivion.

Note: CPAP is an acronym for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.” A few years ago I was diagnosed with a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea and prescribed the use of a CPAP. My condition has improved remarkably since, and I have grown somewhat fond of my machine.

Today’s prompt from suggested writing a prose poem “that, whatever title you choose to give it, is a story about the body. The poem should contain an encounter between two people, some spoken language, and at least one crisp visual image.”

April 2022 (NaPoWriMo 2022, -1)

And for an everlasting Roof / The Gambrels of the Sky—
the season has come
when open doors and
open minds let in
the light again
the cruellest month
when flowers dance
while all around
the earth's still bare
and ruins old turned new
cast their gloomy shade
over hopes for change
that fear this might not
be the right time yet

Last year I skipped NaPoWriMo and I can’t be sure this year I will be able to post a poem a day again, but you never know… Today’s prompt for “Early Birds” was, find inspiration in a line by Emily Dickinson. The quotation above comes from her “I Dwell in Possibility” (466).

The Bonsai Grower

Then the rain came, and it was cold.

His line of thought suddenly changed
And turned to his little potted trees.

He googled the latest forecast:
A sudden drop in temperatures,
Too risky to leave them outside.

He was gratefully distracted
By the necessary actions;
And by sunset, he was tired.

The rain had stopped, and the sparse clouds
Seemed to presage a frosty night.

Nature, he thought, like nothing else.

Too Soon for Christmas

Please do not ask me how I am, 
Nor if I am at that—Who knows?
Don’t tell me that Christmas is near,
Please bring no gifts and share no news;
I went to funerals last month,
Not one, but more, and it felt like…
It did not feel—no, not at all,
I only wished I was not there,
Though nowhere else I’d rather be.
Please do not mention Christmas lights
Or decorations or suchlike,
Don’t tell me of the dress you bought,
Invite me to no festive meal,
Don’t put on that Bing Crosby song,
Let me pretend I cannot see,
I cannot hear, I cannot smell.
I am not ready, let me be:

Too soon for Christmas, or too late—
Just let me choose another date.

Chapter Two

So there it is, where you promised
I would find it.

A bit rusty, precariously hanging,
like the memory lingering
in my mind of that day.

I will pick it,

like I picked the blossom
that would never be an apple,
but soon drop its delicate white petals.

I will use it,
re-open our neglected door.


Elgar’s Cello Concerto at the Albert Hall, 
A seminar on cocktails at the V&A,
Lakeside concert and stargazing on Hampstead Heath,
A night tour of Highgate Cemetery with torches,
Followed by a long morning hike in the North Downs,
Learning about stile styles, and crossing stiles with style.
And in winter, Regent’s Canal on New Year’s Day,
And Primrose Hill in the snow, the Aviary so calm—
Would you believe they’d re-name it Monkey Valley?—
Chatting about real Venice in Little Venice
Over a watery cappuccino with cream,
And Miller’s and Hall’s productions of the Merchant,
And all the plays on our current list, when tickets
Were still affordable for a student like me...
Memories flow incessantly while I listen
To a Prom concert on the radio, seeing
You sitting there beside me, recalling London
In the Eighties as if it had been yesterday.
They did not think of letting me know that you were
Dead: I asked, when a recorded voice insisted
The number I had dialled did not exist.
You know I wished to thank you and say goodbye.