The News

He wasn’t going to make it
He knew it
So did his agitated, pacing wife
Though they couldn’t be certain, until
they heard the doctor’s ominous knock, and
his heavy footsteps, carrying him
to the side of the man’s bed

The doctor didn’t stay long
Doctors never do
Whether you’re healthy or sick
In this case, it’s just as well
The doctor’s spotless white coat–
An ugly reminder of death’s ghostly face

From my bed across the hall
I watched the closed white curtain
Surrounding the old man’s bed
Making me wonder what was on the other side
Of the curtain, of life

I prayed my news tomorrow would be better
That God would decide He’s not finished with me
That I might hold my wife’s hand for a little while longer

A Soldier’s Last Songs

the eighty-two year old man
with the chalky white skin
and the permanently folded hands
lying in the casket
was the only one to know
the true reality at hand

his ability to see, no longer blinded
by his eyes, and other senses
his mind no longer gets in the way of his spirit
which waited all these years for release
he sees, in a different way, the shadowy figures
lurking, and flying about the room
like ancient winged creatures
right out of the alchemists’ Rosarium philosophorum

visitors paying last respects pour into the room
the shadowy figures multiple in number
like a mushrooming chorus
singing one familiar song after another
like the song of the children
where sons and daughters stand over their dad’s body
crying to be held just one more time
like the song of the grandchildren
wishing one more visit
to get to know the father of their parents
like the song of the wife
begging her husband to return to their bed
that tonight she might not sleep alone
there are no brothers or sisters
so this song, for now, goes unsung

then, the song of the friends, mostly older
streaming past the open casket, offering prayers
wondering when their time will come
among them, the man’s veteran friends
who sing the final song, the soldier’s song
reminding all of death’s disinterested stare

tears fill every eye in the room
as the haunting sound of taps
washes into the parlor
bringing with it
a legion of uniformed men
young and old
not from just one war, but all wars
one by one, they march past the casket
and with their voices lift up the man
and take him home

In Memory of Marie’s Father, Jack Keck

Parting Thoughts

Note: This is a fictious poem. It’s empathy poetry
and nothing more. When you think about life, nothing
is more creative than birth and death.


Not sure what I thought dying would be like.
Had some idea from losing Mom, my grandparents,
several aunts and uncles, and some friends.
It’s completely different when it’s you–
when it’s your guts being eaten alive
by the same hideous monster that ate Mom’s.

I never knew how vast a white ceiling could be.
Staring at the one in my room for hours on end
has brought this sense of vastness to mind.
I’m obsessed with this image of total whiteness.
Is this my life epiphany?
Is this what it’s like on the other side?
Why does the ceiling seem so vast and unlimited
when my life feels so small and insignificant?

The pain isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
The drugs keep me from parts of my pain
I don’t want to know.
Because cancer kills you,
you’d think it would hurt more.
Maybe the pain will get worse,
as I get closer to the end.
It’s funny, as long as there’s pain,
I know I am still alive.
I wish I could hold onto my pain forever.
I can’t.

No matter what they do,
I can’t get comfortable…
with the cancer, the fear it ignites, and
not knowing when I take my last breath.
The cancer feels like a foreign object inside me.
It didn’t come from me, and it’s not mine.
When I’m angry,
it feels like a burglar breaking into my house,
stealing my most prized possessions.

The best part about dying is the dreams.
I never thought there would be anything
I’d like about dying.
They’re much more vivid now.
In many ways, more so than my life.
It’s strange, some mornings I wake up,
wanting only to drop back off to sleep
and rejoin my dreams.

When you’re healthy,
you can’t feel your internal organs.
When you’re dying, you know they’re there.
I never thought about my liver, spleen, or pancreas.
When they’re filled with cancer,
you can’t stop thinking about them.

Often I think I want to die a noble death–
one more noble than the life I’ve lived. But
is nobility really significant at a time like this?
Is it supposed to make dying worthwhile?
We never stop wanting life to be
the way we want it to be.
Not even when we’re dying.

The worst part is the waiting.
I never liked waiting for anything.
I hate it, especially now, and
not knowing what waits on the other side.
The waiting gives you plenty of time
to reflect upon your life.
But not in the way I want to.
It’s amazing how feelings of anger, regret, and sadness
haunt everything coming to mind about my life.
Even my happiest times.

You know…
I can’t bear to mention the people in my life–
those I’m about to leave behind.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t.
For me, that’s the hardest part.

Why does life have to feel so unfinished now–
so incomplete,
like a poem you don’t know how to end?