Small Shreds of Life

Poetry takes a small shred of life and makes it important. Even if it is unimportant. Even if it is something we don’t know and still wonder about. That’s why I love the poems of Billy Collins, poet laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003.

unusual-tombstonesIn the last several weeks, I’ve given some thought to death and dying. No, no, nothing is wrong, but several of my friends have had friends die recently, or a spouse, or someone they loved. And while I conducted the memorial service, I thought how little we know about the dead and their lives.

I love the descriptions in David Brockmeir’s  A Brief History of the Dead--that as long as someone tells stories about the dead, they live in a place much like earth, where they know they are remembered. And the day the last person who knew them dies, they move into a different dimension. And then there is Billy Collins’s take on death, one that is kind and funny. And that had to be hard to write:

The Dead

The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

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–Quinn McDonald loves reading poetry that makes meaning.

10 thoughts on “Small Shreds of Life

  1. My day was set, so much to do before the work week arrived, but I followed the urge and clicked his name and the world dimmed as I drifted into swirls of peace.

  2. I think about death too, not in a maudlin way . . . as you get older I think it’s realistic. Not having been blessed with the same good fortune and me with regard to genes and circumstance, some of my contemporaries have died. It’s as natural as birth . . . and inevitable. My mother said she wasn’t afraid of death although the process was a little unnerving (I don’t know if she saw the irony in her use of ‘unnerving’). We’ll all die, all be gone from here, and as there may be no ‘there’ I tend to agree with David Brockmeir’s take on things. I like to think that while one person lives that knows me, tells my story, I’ll still be here in some small way.

    Reincarnation may be a reality, another dimension entirely may exist, there could be another some completely unimagined adventure waiting, I don’t know for sure . . . many finer minds have waxed lyrical about it . . . but does anyone? And does it matter if we have vastly divergent ideas?

    We live, we do what we do and we go, hopefully leaving our small corner this place better for our being here.

    All this is too much before breakfast Quinn . . . I need another coffee . . . and maybe to smilingly write a list of lost loves.

    • I’m fine with death as a part of life. I didn’t come to stay, and frankly, I’d rather die than linger with horrible debilities. No one has come back to tell us what really happens, so I like the idea of reincarnation. Go have another coffee. That’s good for the soul, too.

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