"Foxed," "Nobody Wants to Die Any More," and "At the Burial"
Neither age nor monuments
Of what we were
Will restore this dream to me
How he looked – graying at the temples
As if worshipful
A little slow about the middle
Time was taking a piece of him,
Piece by piece he would disappear
Not made of anything permanently enduring
What once was most alluring
Vanishes to dust
The sparkling conversations
Humorous sallies, stumble forth
Slow in the back,
Low in the heart
Neither age, nor monuments of art
Vision will darken now
Do not go quietly,
one may say,
But in the end
We are patched up in the corners,
And rounded with a hungry dream
Nobody Wants to Die Any More
I know it sounds indelicate, maybe even crass,
but I’m standing at the end of the line here giving away
‘get out of nursing home free’ cards.
These places after all are one-way tickets,
You know where you’re going
when you get on the train.
Nobody asks when you board, I know, but if they had asked,
how many of us would have said, “Oh, no, thanks,
I’m happy just where I am…”
Which was like – where?
I have seen some end-of-life, last-gasping days
such as I am not, personally speaking, eager to emulate.
I don’t think it’s a far, far better thing,
or any such boon to humanity,
but when I do get to the edge of the cliff
I plan on jumping, whether or not there’s a parachute
on my back or any expectation
of a soft landing at the bottom.
In our heart of hearts
we know it’s all a dream.
And those of us “lucky”* enough
to share such thoughts
have no reason to complain
to the management.
* “To die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” – Song of Myself
At the Burial
As in most families, they could not get the love to talk to the brain.
So how was he to know? And so now he was alone.
He cried and clamored like the ancient child he was
when they left him behind, in the home,
the city’s best, but still ‘a home’…
where anyone could have told him he was certain
to end up, in the lead-heavy meaning of that phrase,
if he kept on pretending he could drag his feet
to slow the mortal chariot down.
But no one did, frankly, in all candor,
believing perhaps that aging ears were too heavily stopped
with the wax of self-delusion,
given the steady extinction of sense
dripping from his tongue
with an almost audible hiss.
And even then, throwing the dirt by the reluctant shovelful,
onto the wooden ship of Love’s departure,
the sound it made was of one hand clapping,
because no one had reached for the other,
to shake some sense into stiffening fingers,
saying Dad, Listen! You must do this now,
or at the end – hers, not yours – if you are unlucky,
you will be alone,
pawing with ancient fingers at the children of your loins
and begging not to be left behind
with the ragged cloak of empty time.
Robert Knox is a poet, fiction writer, and Boston Globe correspondent. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in journals such as The American Journal of Poetry, New Verse News, The Eunoia Review, and others. His poetry chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty was nominated for a Massachusetts Best Book award. He was the winner of the 2019 Anita McAndrews Poetry Award. His book of linked short stories, House Stories, was published in 2021. Robert recommends Jewish Voice for Peace.