September 8, 2010

poems about death

in honor of Waylon Lewis’ family as they grieve, mourn, and celebrate the recently passed life of Waylon’s grandpa…

treading air

ashes interred,
dust back to its source

a family celebrates its matriarch
then depart back to their homes

cocooned with strangers
in a skin of thin flying metal,

time and space are suspended
whist traveling toward the glow
of a red setting sun

a cold portal of glass provides vision of it all:

horizon split
like reflections in a pond
dark above, dark below
varied hues banding the border

the polarities of dark and light
up and down
solid and gas
near and far
life and death

blessed rapture and fullest communion.

– roger wolsey
sept. 3, 2003
written on board Delta flight # 1563
upon the memorial service for my grandmom, Frieda Wolsey

no more wookus-pookus

by Roger Wolsey on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 8:41am

i shaved it today
that warm face that used to entertain me and my sister when we were kids

his bushy eyebrows would raise and his eyes would grow big and sparkle as he’d say “Old Ain’t Dinah, long and tall, she sleeps in the kitchen with huh’ feets in de hall!” “It’s time for the wookus-pookus! What’s it gonna be tonight? The Super Dooper or the Regular?”

i would always say, “Give me the Super-Dooper gramps!”
i’d clench my fists as he’d bring his bristled cheeks close to min and then – he’d proceed to scratch the living hell out of my face with his evening sandpaper

a silly pre-bedtime ritual true, but it was mine

no one else had such a care-free and childlike grandfather

yet, today, i shaved that face
the first one took much of the sparkle out of his eyes

and the spring from his step

but this second stroke took away my grandfather

no, he’s not dead but the granddaddy of my memories has past firmly away
his left side paralyzed and control of mind and bladder gone,

he spends his days hunched over in his wheelchair wishing he was home
i squeezed some of the contents from his tube of Williams Shave Creame into a cup

and used his old horsehair brush to make a smooth lather

– just like he used to
i spread some lather across his old and tender cheeks

and picked up his trusty blade

it felt ominous as i held it in my hand

i took great care as I dragged the blade across his face
he said that it hurt
but i knew that it wasn’t the pain of the blade that he meant

but another, deeper pain

than i now have the years to know
…i’ll just have to wait.
roger wolsey

monday, may 27, 1989 (Memorial Day)
Grayson Branch Morris died on April 24, 1990

when i die

what will it be like when you die?

will there be people in white short-sleeved shirts pounding on your chest in the back of a large noisy van?
will it be in a hospital?
or a nursing home?
or perhaps in your own home?

will there be a television turned on in the room?
will you have wanted it turned on?
will you have chosen to watch what’s on?
will there be loved ones with you?
will they be watching the television?
will it be a game show? a soap? golf or baseball?

will you be in pain?
or will you be medicated into a supposedly comfortably numb fog and haze?
will there be incessant sounds of automated beeps, blips, and drips?
will someone be holding your hand?
will it be someone you know?

what will you be thinking about?
about love?
about death?
about estrangements and regrets?
about heaven?
your will?
your pet?
about the playoffs?
if you remembered to turn the oven off?
if you cancelled your subscription to the paper?
will you be thinking about anything at all?

or maybe you’ll intend the day and time of your passing
perhaps sneaking out of the “assisted living center” in the middle of a cold January night, you take off your robe and settle your naked withered skin into a frigid snow bank and gently drift into the lone dark night – hoping nobody finds you until morning

i think that when I die,
i’ll probably be on a bed in my home
my toenails will be long and yellow, my stubble turned into beard
my teeth in a glass on a table
there will be a dog curled up on the floor, one who has been patiently keeping vigil for over a month on that same patch of carpet
a window will be open and birds will be singing – indifferent to what’s going on inside
but I won’t hear them
i’ll be indifferent to them, looking like an orchestra conductor as I sway my arms above me and grasp futilely at invisible somethings in the air that only I can see
i’ll feel straws filled with ice water being pushed into my lips,
i’ll feel rough cotton cloth dabbing my drool
i’ll feel a hand running through my thinning hair grown out like an aged Bozo the clown
i don’t know who (a nurse? a loved one? an old friend? a kindly neighbor?), or how many, are with me but it doesn’t matter,
i feel tended to … maybe overly so, like a child whose mother is constantly trying to smooth down a cowlick with spit in her palm

and then I’ll feel nothing as that someone(s) leaves the room – perhaps for a bite to eat
the dog’s ear will nonchalantly prick up as they leave
the tv will come on in the other room,
– reruns of a show that isn’t even being aired yet..
but I won’t notice, neither that nor the birds, nor the dog,
nor the drool, only the little dancing fairies who are hovering above my bed

until i catch one at last
roger wolsey
oct. 26, 2009
written in honor of the season of dios de los muertos

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