In the beginning of the college class semester we all were asked to read and inter operate:) a poem and at the end of the semester we were asked to re-inter operate:) it and see how all of our thoughts and feelings were changed after taking a class on Death and Dying. The poem is called “The Angel of Death is Always with me” by Morton Marcus. My thoughts did not change and I took over the class with my interpretation because everyone else said it is something like a reaper knocking at your door ready to take you away.
THE ANGEL OF DEATH IS ALWAYS WITH ME
The Angel of Death is always with me
the hard wild flowers of his teeth,
his body like cigar smoke
swaying through a small town jail.
He is the wind that scrapes through our months,
the train wheels grinding over our syllables.
He is the footstep continually pacing through our
the small wound in the soul,
the meteor puncturing the atmosphere.
And sometimes he is merely a quiet between the start
of an act
and its completion,
a silence so loud
it shakes you like a tree.
It is only then you look up from the wars,
from the kisses,
from the signing of business agreements;
It is only then you observe the dimensions
housed in the air of each day,
only then you hear the old caressing the cold rims of
hear the middle-aged women in love with their pillows
weeping into the gray expanse of each dawn,
where young men, dozing in alleys,
envision their loneliness to be a beautiful girl
and do not know they are part of a young girl's dream,
as she does not know that she is a dream in the sleep
of middle-aged women and old men,
and that all are contained in a gray wind
that scrapes through our months.
But soon we forget that the dead sleep in buried
that our hearts contain them in ripe vaults.
We forget that beautiful women dry into parchment
and ball players collapse into ash;
that geography wrinkles and smoothes
like the expressions on a face,
and that not even children
can pick the white fruit from the night sky.
And how could we laugh while looking at the face
that falls apart like wet tobacco?
How could we wake each morning
to hear the muffled gong beating inside us,
our mouths full of shadows,
our rooms filled with a black dust?
it is humiliating to be born a bottle:
to be filled with air, emptied, filled again;
to be filled with water, emptied, filled again;
and, finally, to be filled with earth.
And yet I am glad that The Angel of Death is always
his footsteps quicken my own,
his silence makes me speak,
his wind freshens the weather of my day.
And it is because of him
I no longer think
that with each beat
is a planet drowning from within
but an ocean filling for the first time.
And This is What I Told the Class….
Adolf ****** and the **** SS come to mind after reading the clue riddled poem, “The Angel of Death is Always with me”. Hiding between the lines I find there are many reference points to the holocaust and feelings of how it might have felt from a prisoner’s point of view.
If my assumptions are valid with this interpretation as far as the relationship of “death to Life” is concerned, one would think that after witnessing all the atrocities that one saw in those concentration camps, one would almost welcome death as soon as possible as a way to escape from their living nightmare and be welcomed back into being a part of the earth so they no longer have to whisper softly, “We are the dead” and pray that they become a victim of an accident of birth.
I normally don’t comment on other people’s works in poetry for the simple fact that I try to jump into their shoes and try to understand just what it is the message they are diligently trying to convey to the reader, and in the doing of so, I feel that I might misunderstand just what it is they are trying to tell the world and in the doing of so I would then not be able to make the ranks of a poet with originality.