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?
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.
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.