So…this is the poem where I make
several outrageous and/or silly,
semi-silly or occasionally serious
requests regarding the preparations when
I die. Something along the lines of:
I want to be buried in my favorite yellow
raincoat, a blood red carnation tacked
to the left breast pocket while standing in a red
English telephone booth, in Pere LaChaise or
Green River Cemetery. I want music, something bouncy
in the note of C, nothing dirge like or sad, except
for maybe O…Danny Boyyyy…the
pipes are calling. I always liked that
song. I want joyous tears and sweet
nostalgia not grief wailing as a
banshee. I want everyone to get
drunk and jump naked into a big flesh
pile after you plant me. I want you to
eat exotic food Thai or Indian as you have
polite, remember that time when we conversations with
one another. I want a moving eulogy from one of
my dearest friends. In lieu of flowers give money to
the homeless, save the whales or a free Tibet.
But we both know it won’t happen that way because you
are a poet and reality more likely will spin something like:
You will not have planned ahead and located
a red English telephone booth and it’s not like there is
an overabundance of red English telephone booths at
the dollar store or the pawn shops downtown and so
someone will pick out a plain wooden box for
you likely something in knotty pine with yellow
tinted varnish because that is what your thin budget will allow.
And in the general chaos that follows your death, no one will
be able to find your favorite yellow raincoat because it will
have fallen down behind the sofa three week’s previous because
you never could put things away where they belonged, could you?
And everyone will send flowers because they do not
know where to get in touch with the homeless or who is
saving the whales or freeing Tibet these days.
And there will be no music of your choosing because one
of your spacey, marginally functional poet friends or relatives forgot
the boombox and the CDs and it’s just too far to drive all the way
home for the sake of music alone, but another old friend forgot to
take his battered trombone from the trunk of his car after
last night’s Open Jam at the broken down roadhouse
three towns over and so he will play a few ill
conceived Beatles and Dylan covers to keep things lively.
And a lay minister you knew tangentially, who came to shake
your hand after a reading at the local community center will give the
benediction because there was no time to find or fly one of your
dear friends in from wherever they have meandered to over the years.
And there will be wailing and a definitive lack of joyous
tears and of course no one will feel like getting naked or jumping
into a huge flesh pile because an orgy would just seem
And people will eat what is always eaten after funerals: catered food in
aluminum trays warmed by Sterno pots, cold cuts on outrageously
minuscule dinner rolls, tremendous groaning pans of lukewarm ziti with
grated Parmesan cheese and Swedish meatballs in thick, lumpy gravy.
And Pere La Chaise and Green River are all full up with
dead artists already so you will be buried in a lonely,
windswept plot on a hillside in rural New York State in a
rumpled old suit and pants that date to your misguided early
career as a copy editor thirty years previous and the wrinkled
shirt beneath has a bad case of ring around the collar and the
tie is just too short and tacky for current fashion.
And the only consolation in all of this will be that there will
be a few sweet nostalgias and knowing the crowd you run with, more
than a few will dive well into their cups to mourn your passing which
is a better reason than yesterday’s sunrise and someone did manage to
locate a blood red carnation at the gas station and pinned it to your lapel.
And while we are supposed to cheer the minor victories in our
lives, these consolations do not taste at all like victory or indicate a
life well lived.
But neither should this be taken as an obscene or grand failure on your
part, you just never realized that your life was as much a rumpled ill fitting
suit, ring around the collar and bad trombone music as it was yellow
raincoats, red English telephone booths and bouncy music in the key of C.