Cream of Silly Soup
Or, thinking about death on a Sunday morning
Ingredients: One piece of direct mail from Trident Society + a living person.
Serves: No one.
Sundays we go through the mail. Sure, if I see something exciting come through during the week, I’ll nab it, but the garden variety junk or bills or miscellaneous can wait until the end of the weekend.
Today I was intrigued by a mysterious envelope from Rancho Mirage. It was about the size and weight of an invitation. Who do I know who might be inviting me to something, I thought as I tore open the envelope. But the excitement was short-lived. Instead, I found a request from the Trident Society to ‘confirm’ my contact information so they can send me information about cremation. I suppose being a half-century old makes me that much closer to death, so hey, why not think about what to do with my lifeless corpse in the obvious eventuality? And sure, I do want to be cremated, because seriously who wants to be one of those decomposing corpses buried in a box beneath a park? Doesn’t that sound inviting? Picnicking over someone’s bones. Sure, Harold & Maude is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I’d much prefer to be reduced to a pile of ash and returned to the earth. But not today. So, Trident Society, you almost got me. If you had just invited me to a cocktail party to talk about cremation, I may have said yes. I like an excuse to wear a party dress.
None of us are strangers to death, particularly writers. In fact, I do consider it one of my favorite topics to write about in spite of how disconcerting it is. In my personal life, I’ve lost friends and loved ones and friends of my kids to suicide, overdose, cancer, road rage, heart attack, exposure, and more.
Maybe it’s gallows humor, but no fewer than six of the poems in my upcoming chapbook speak indirectly or directly to and even for death, or Death—Death is a woman, you know. She likes bubble baths. She’s upwardly mobile and wonders why she hasn’t been promoted. Also, did you know that when you’re dead there’s a weekly post-corporeal square dance and potluck? Who knew!
This morning I’m babysitting my new iPhone—yes, I bit on an offer to upgrade—and enjoying some leisure time before I head off to UCR Arts for work, which lucky for me, is usually the same as for pleasure.
Which reminds me of my recent work trip to the L.A. Times Festival of Books. At the last minute, I put myself down for one of the “signing” slots at our booth, since we had an opening and I have a book coming out. During my allotted time, I had already learned from the readers before me that trying to read at the booth was futile. So instead of standing passively at the sidelines, I put myself in the middle of the flow of traffic and read directly to random passersby, making eye contact whenever possible. Sometimes they would actually stop to listen.
The first poem I read is titled “Warning!”, which I shouted into the oncoming crowd.
Here is the dark-hearted cave, the blood-bloom of a kiss on your ear.
I have swallowed your tongue to taste what sweetness is not.
Here is a stuttering hand, a lapsed thrill that you are leaking onto, and out of.
In this there is no room for a key, but a lake likes the swim of you, the fin.
The cliffs loom like cherry-licked ice, melting into the vertical and smiling.
Clear and sharpening its claws. You have no bones that lift your skin,
no bone-hangers on which to drag your dress around. Flip the switch
and the heart bleats like a lighted skull, like a sheep you have
fitted with a luminescent flare. It burns and the scene whistles steam.
It runs and leaps and little sweaters march single file on command
but not to warm you. To warn you: I say, Look out for the falling lamb.
To pickle you I must spell the word "backwards" three times, climb
the ladder to unlatch the trunk. Here is your bloodless berry.
From My Skies of Small Horses.