If I should die,
And you should live—
And time should gurgle on—
And morn should beam—
And noon should burn—
As it has usual done—
If Birds should build as early
And Bees as bustling go—
One might depart at option
From enterprise below!
’Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand
When we with Daisies lie—
That Commerce will continue—
And Trades as briskly fly—
It makes the parting tranquil
And keeps the soul serene—
That gentlemen so sprightly
Conduct the pleasing scene!
Everyone knew, including him,
that if you sat too close to the TV, your eyes would die.
But nobody knew, but him,
that if you sit too far away, you miss out on the experience.
It's why he plays!
Callie was drawn apart from the rest, a grayish graphite figure on an empty white sheet but for me her isolation had always been a source of romantic mystery. I tailed her the way most other boys followed around the popular girls and for the majority of our youth she had kept me outside her arm’s reach. It was our last summer before college and I walked to her house each day, even in the rain to lie on her bedroom floor listening to records. There was a flower stand by her home and I think I brought Callie a sunflower every day that summer. At first she refused them but by August she was sitting on the steps, waiting for me. It was my persistence or perhaps her fatigue; I will never know entirely but she finally gave into my love, almost reluctantly like an outdoor cat in need of a place to nestle.
I don’t think a day of college passed without me talking to her because long distance romances hold on to that new-love smell a lot longer than other relationships. We were only three and half hours apart but from the way I wrote to her you would have thought a war and two continents divided us and it persisted like that for all four years until we both graduated; the following April we were married. On our honeymoon we hopped in my Jeep Cherokee and took Old Route 11 south to Louisiana. I find it funny how a linear flow of events given time becomes a fractious collection of moments; the smell of gasoline at a truck-stop, a strategically placed kiss on the upper neck just below the ear, a song that made her smile, the highway disappearing into the horizon line or a beautiful sunset watching us instead- as we were too preoccupied with one another’s eyes. I remember somewhere near Jefferson City a levee in the heavens must have broken open, rain cascaded down as though God again intended to flood the world. We pulled over to wait out the storm; we talked of the future as newlyweds often do. You know silly things, cat or dog, the number of kids and just as we were deciding the name of our first born that song, the one that made her smile came on. Callie dragged me into the backseat, held me down and undressed me like my clothes were on fire. She sat atop me, pulled my head against her bare breast and demanded that I tell her she was the only thing that mattered. She was the only thing that mattered.
Three years after that road trip Callie had a miscarriage and again I found the distance between us grew unbearable. She didn’t want to talk about it and eventually my voice; even in our small apartment was drowned out by the morning traffic report, closed doors and the slow drip in the kitchen sink. While we were falling apart, the world was coming together, technology was growing exponentially and the connection between everyone else was growing stronger. The News became less about robbery, rape, or murder, more about scientific and medical discoveries. Diseases, the ones that had plagued humanity since our conception were being cured weekly and then almost daily. I remember it so vividly, it was like the gates of paradise had been opened, and we the exiles of Eden were once again invited to indulge in the fruits of the Gods.
You'll remember that it began as a lottery; soon the meaning of money became so inconsequential in comparison to the value of the nanobots. In the pursuit of immortality people spent whole paychecks, took out loans and even sold their homes in the hopes of winning a chance to be injected. Some even died trying, but Callie and I just went on living the way we always had like ghosts who haunted the same home but never knew the other existed. When she wasn't painting I would find her in bed weeping. I would lie beside her and hold her until she stopped, or until she succumbed to the sleep that often eluded her. Eventually the bots became so abundant that it was no longer left to chance and it was a choice. For the first time in a long while, Callie and I sat down at the dinner table and actually spoke. We weighed all the possibilities and at times even argued. I still remember her hands, they sat atop the table in the shape of a spaded shovel and mine rested in hers. She told me, with tears running down her cheeks that she did not want to live forever and though I was scared of dying then, I was definitely more afraid of losing her. So we agreed to live out the rest of our lives, not as members of the hive-mind but as individuals tethered together by a bond we believed stronger than any machine.
A few years later, Callie and I were moved to the designated living accommodations for people like us, people who had opted out of the injection. From a distance the structure looked like a massive pearly-white fang climbing out from a dense rainforest canopy to an empty blue sky but as we got closer we realized the exterior of the structure was coated with these barnacle-like pods. We had a garden patch on our balcony and for a couple summers I grew sunflowers there. We made love regularly and we were happy for the first time in a long while but outside the compound the world began to change so rapidly, centuries of innovation occurred within an instant; it was like watching an ocean of fireworks explode into a tornado that built entire cities and just as quickly made them disappear. Life was measured in milliseconds and we watched from the outside; our hands intertwined as though they were bound by awe, or perhaps fear.
Eventually Callie would withdraw from me again; her dejection pulled at her slowly and I was forced to watch it drag her under. I wrestled with the black sea that brood inside of her, but nothing I possessed could stop that dark tide from taking her. One morning I awoke to an empty bed, I expected to find her in the tub, a warm bath drawn, her wrists slit and her lifeless body soaking in a puce pool of blood, but instead I found a hand written letter on the kitchen counter. The words trembled on the page the way I imagined her hand must have as she wrote it. Each line was harder to read as tears streamed from my unblinking eyes. She had gone, not to the arms of another, not to die, but to be one with the rest of all mankind inside the machine. I guess Callie believed in those final days that the cure to her sadness was the singularity. Her decision filled me first with sadness then anger and now…
I must look foolish to you, this stubborn old man atop this mountain of pride and you’re probably asking yourself why I still deny the collective intelligence of all life. As far as I can tell I am the last of my kind; everyone else has either died or joined you in the ether. I know she’s in there, I know she is a part of you now, whatever you are. I imagine her body was little more than a lemming or worse, just some raw material. Her consciousness probably of no importance to you, but to me Callie was the heartbeat of the heavens, the universe unraveling, collapsing and again being reimagined by the eyes of God. She wasn’t always happy, but our love was a sunflower standing alone in a desiccated field of blackened soil, struggling yet surviving. I won’t allow it to be swallowed up by your enormity, turned into some singular binary bit and forgotten. I choose to die because as she was then, she is now, the only thing that has ever mattered.
When I die,
I don't want to be buried.
I don't want a casket.
I don't want a tombstone.
I don't really want much of a funeral.
I simply want whomever desires
To say something about me
To do so
(Whether it's good, bad, or funny).
I want to be burned
In a cardboard box,
And as I'm being cremated,
I want someone
To read a poem that I have written
For that very occasion.
When I'm all turned to ashes,
I want them to put me
In a cheap little container
And throw my ashes into the wind.
Maybe over a field, a forest, or the ocean--
Whatever, so long as it's windy there.
I don't want my loved ones to have a
Specific place to visit me
I want to be the one
Who visits my loved ones
So I can give them kisses
When the wind
Brushes their cheeks.
Basketball stands for war or battle.
That's why I think about the players'
personalities, in my foxhole or squad.
Danny and Ben are fast and smart. Dan
especially can pass making him master
and commander. To defeat them as we did
is very satisfying. Ben's five year old son
is intelligent but distant. Disdains to answer
my question Why are you you?
But I'm not here
to catalogue the men's personalities.
I like them. But each of us has moved on
many times, when _______ suddenly died
the games went on with hardly a mention
and his name has since been forgotten.
But even this, absolute mortality
of not just our bodies but our names
and souls is not what I came
to talk about. Yesterday, between games,
I asked Joe how Molly his daughter likes
the high school. He mounted an impassioned
defense of reading as the indispensable skill
when I suggested math, the scientific method
and history are essential too.
Also between games
Bob diffidently asked why my kids are bald.
I was moved by the care he took to satisfy
his curiosity, concerned the subject might be
difficult. He's a political science teacher so
I took the opportunity to ask What ails
the republic? Of course I answered myself
wanting mostly to hear myself talk about Iraq
and how empire is self-correcting. For once I was amusing
I thought, treating the subject with a light touch
But none of this is what I came to say.
A new guy, very big and strong, a
bulldozer under the boards with a good
outside shot if needed got into a dispute
with the other Bob who likes to tell people
what to do sometimes, about an offensive
foul Bob called which we almost never do.
The new guy said If you can't take it don't
play under the boards which is what I say
when I'm pissed and don't give a shit.
Bob said You've been pushing and shoving me
all day. I said He doesn't want to be
pushed and shoved which got a wry
smile out of Danny as I put the ball in play.
Die into me,
Every kiss is a prayer
As I whisper a prophesy
To your body.
The night will keep us
As we constellate our passion.
I die into you,
I await you on the other side,
There open my soul
And read the inscription:
He died a thousand times,
Reborn inside her,
The Sacrificial Lover.
The life of an anorexic
Is never written in stone
One day you may not wake up
And leave your family alone
The life of an anorexic
Is a lonely on at that
You don't go out with friends
For they might make you fat
The life of an anorexic
Is not one to pine for
I hate myself with every bite
And it makes me want to cry more
The life of an anorexic
Is a life that I will die for.
My love, if you die and I don't--,
let's not give grief an even greater field.
No expanse is greater than where we live.
Dust in the wheat, sand in the deserts,
time, wandering water, the vague wind
swept us like sailing seeds.
We might not have found one another in time.
This meadow where we find ourselves,
O little infinity! we give it back.
But Love, this love has not ended:
just as it never had a birth, it has
no death: it is like a long river,
only changing lands, and changing lips.
Some people think
So much about dying
They forget in their lives
They are living
Some people live
So much for their lives
They forget, in time,
They’re going to die.
Some people end the lives of others,
Symbolically or literally
Some, the former initially,
And the latter not much after.
Some people decide to end the lives
Of their flesh, blood, the essence of themselves...
Some say that is the only sin
An all-loving God could never forgive.
Some die before they live.
Some half-way through existence
Most live before they die
But some die to live again, they try
Some die as children, untouched by shame or corruption
Some die with children, hearts swollen with the love their lives taught them
Some pass in their sleep, life with only regrets
Or not a trace of them at all
I suppose I cannot say.
Answer this, if I may ask
When the time comes,
In your place to bask,
When you are about to die
Can you be sure that, once,
You had truly been alive?