Life Is Not a Metaphor

April 13, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Posted in Poetry | 2 Comments
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This week’s challenge was to write about death. Any genre at all. I’m not a fan of death. My own, anyway. For other people my feelings range from genuine sorrow to ambivalent to downright giddy.
To read more of these stories, hitchhike with the Grim Reaper over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Death is on the Table

It was quite a while back–Or perhaps tomorrow
So we’ll see how well I remember…
This morning, on a visit
To the true living dead, the rolling lifeless
The eyes that are too old and tired
To show despair or acceptance
Of what this mortal state,
This dubious existence has left us.
Like crumbs, like scraps,
Like a bowl of something left sitting
In the bottom near the back of the refrigerator
Behind the cheese whiz
Who knows what it is, exactly–who remembers?
But we’ve kept it long enough so it’s time to throw it out.

So we take it, through a feeding tube
For days on end…slowly
But life is not a metaphor, not simile
Not literary imagery, or hyperbole
Life is not poetic, so just–
The real nitty-gritty, the facts:
When we grow old and we are queued up to die
And our muscles don’t respond
And our noses can’t smell the urine
That our bodies can’t hold anymore
Our eyes don’t see the fetid organic filth
That we are now living in
Our ears won’t hear the workers
Talking, chatting, gossiping, cursing work
After they cart off another one
They clean up the room and spray it
And change the sheets
And welcome another resident
To life’s holding pattern

Sitting, staring nowhere, and doped for easier handling
Through blurry dull eyes we have a view of the cemetery.
We are carted from place to place,
Too weak and too tired to fight
No emotion left for the patronizing that we accept.
Is it a nice day? How do we feel?
Have your bowels moved? Are you drugged?

Great-grandfather, my ancestor, will I follow you?
Will I die horribly in my youth,
With unfulfilled potential and promise?
Or will my fate be the same as yours–and what is worse?
As you wander aimlessly these stained and dirty halls,
Drained of hope, drained of faculty
Drained of the last bit of hope
You ask everyone you see
Have you seen my beloved wife?
She was just here at my side…
Have you seen her?
Condescending murmurs are the answers that you get
They’ve never seen her,
Because she was lucky enough to die
Before this place could happen to her
Meanwhile, as the days flow like clumps of kitty litter
Through someone else’s fingers
And life goes on for everyone else but you,
Your foggy gray mind lets go of your cherished memories
Like leaves falling from a tree, or rats escaping a sinking ship
They are all that you have left but they betray you and escape,
One by one.

Please stop—please, make it stop.
There is a fog, it’s true, but sometimes
Clarity seeps through despite myself;
The only thing I’ve learned is that
Time is much less fluid than we are led to believe
In fact, it’s rather lumpy
And my personal identity is less than bound to me
Cataracts have let me see the world
Through a Salvador Dali-colored lens
Am I now my own great-grandfather
Whom I once came to see?
This small child ceremoniously presented
As my progeny
Slobbering and wetting himself–Is he me?
I don’t know what is going on now
But I remember that day so long ago
And I imagine it is the same.



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  1. I wish I could write poetry-am jealous of anyone who can. Well done!

  2. I’ve been to nursing homes many times. Luckily the ones I visited were kind, caring and clean. Old age is scary, not only because we lose control of our lives, but because the people who become our caregivers can become jaded.
    The spirit remains the same. Only the wrapper changes. For all of us.
    Lovely poem. Brought tears to my eyes.

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