Another Totentanz

digital illustrationTo Rest in Peace

Alas! for shadows carve my collarbones

and misery is lapping at my heels;

Death’s machinations turn, wheels within wheels,

and grind me for its grist between cold stones–

And yet, as dust-dry as I turn, breath blooms

persistently, a torture to my soul

when I had rather be devoured whole

and go on into Peace’s empty rooms–

Still, here I stay, lie atomized, forlorn,

forgotten on the fringes of what life

and loves I knew once, when my days were rife

with possibility as a new morn–

Let me die now, not live without a chance

of altering this endless Totentanz.

Lest you think me suffering myself, or pessimistic, I assure you I am alive and well. It’s just that I have seen many others struggle with prolonged and pitiful end-of-life dramas and was reminded this June when I saw the beautiful antique gravestones in Boston of how different things are now, when we have such nearly unbelievable powers to keep ourselves alive for tremendously long lives but have lost touch with when it’s acceptable or even desirable not to do so. If our skills for ensuring or encouraging genuine quality of life are far outstripped by our skills for lengthening it, what does that say about us? Generations removed from our forebears, whether in Boston or elsewhere, who knew much more primitive medicine, greater physical dangers, irreparable injuries and the concomitant shorter lifespans we have apparently long since forgotten, do we know how to accept death as a natural end to life and treat dying as a passage to be eased to the fullest extent instead of forbidden?

The Latest Dance Craze, and I Do Mean Latest

photoTarantella* for Arachnophobes

I’m told a lizard ought to find

small creatures of arachnid-kind

as tasty and desirable

a treat to make the tummy full

as anyone could wish to munch–

but I hate them, that horrid bunch!

Spiders, to me, are crawly, creepy

creatures; make me frightened, weepy,

send me under my bed, my couch,

in a zipping zing or a crunching crouch;

they make me itch in my lizard pants,

in my reptile rooms, until I prance

around the house in a manic dance!

I try to shake my whole belief

that they’re attacking; no relief

is found when I am faced with grief

from eight-legg’d monsters or their kin,

and then such dancing must begin!

I’m forced to writhe and wriggle madly,

spin and struggle wildly (sadly),

and last, because the fear remains,

tromp out a tarantella, badly!

O, would that I could simply snap

my jaws on that small hairy chap

the spider, show no fear of death;

instead, I lose my very breath

and shrivel, like the brink of doom

has entered in my living room!

What was my fateful youthful sinning

set my head and heart to spinning

like a dervish when one shows,

to tearing my poor lizard clothes,

sneezing out of my reptile nose

and stretching like a garden hose

to flee arachnids; why do those

bring fear into my scaly soul?

I only know my utter goal

when spiders enter into view

is: dance until they set on you.

* Just so’s you know, I do realize that this poem in no way conforms to any of the traditional Tarantella forms, nor will dancing whilst reciting it actually cure you if you should be gnawed on by a spider, but it might possibly frighten away any proximal tarantulas–as well as humans–if you dance in an appropriately bizarre fashion during your recitation.

digital photo-collageTotentanz

I shall sing you a ditty, you fine dead folk;

dance along to it if you like; no joke:

for naught’s so right in my heart and head

as to pay respect to the honored dead,

who have earned the ease of their Late condition,

but also deserve deep recognition,

and might be glad to take part, perchance,

in a little postmortem song and dance.

In limpid blue and livid red

but nary a drop of gloom or dread

I’ll dress my act for each measured measure,

creating a funerary pleasure

to honor the love, in my death-knell song,

of those dear departed, the moved-along,

and move, if I can, each girl and boy

to dance a jig of unceasing joy,

remembering all you dead-and-done

with fond frivolity, every one,

dancing our socks off, slow or fast,

as we sing and swing to the very last,

and when ghost-persons join, their haunts

bring cheer to the perfect Totentanz.