In her cull

Before

Who knew how to die?

That it wouldn’t be instantaneous

As children imagine

A sudden pain, then unconsciousness

Who knew?

Death could go on years

Building and slowing like cold sea water

Burning firework left to fizzle alone in inky sky

That it would wind and unwind, a mad clock void of correct motion

Who knew?

It could take the very young, wrap them in wool, to cast down wet hill

The jarring and bumping eventual colission held at bay

Till forgotten

That it could take you

Suspend you from me and all familiar things

Where the recognition in your once clear and beautiful eyes

Became muddied and clouded with quiet violence

Your touch so soft, stolen and replaced with flinty brush off

Who knew

The courage of fighters

Seathing against their sentence and eventual

Chop chop of parts, scars and marred

Skin once free of blade

A scratch board of operation knives

She reached me

As I sat in my safe world

Pulled me through

I smelt anticeptic

Read her clever whirring mind

Far too smart for this dull world

How can such people die?

She laughs and says

At least I’ll go young and whilst I have my looks

So long as you don’t show the undertaker my scars

They remind me of barbed wire and grey hair and the lines you cut in snow

When skiing downhill

Her lips are red, she says

I used to ride horses and can speak five languages

I say

I wish you would stay

I could read you eternally

It’s the macabre and giggling nervousness you feel

Around dying

It brings out the worst or the best of us

I wanted to bolt

Race down the road

But I remain and listen

To the gurgle of her catheter

And saw the bruised clouds grow

As rain came like tears behind pitched fingers

Her humor never left

She knew more than all of us

What a terrible, terrible waste

She said; I can make an authentic French 75

I wanted to swap places, I am not so rarefied

But I am a coward

Before the machinations of surgeons

What devour they do, to our poor skin

Does it really prevent anything?

She asked, laughing at the cat

Who is also old and infirm before his time

Still batting the window when birds come to peck

At crumbs of comfort because it’s those little things

She says, keep you going

Like my favorite soup, a funny film, the sun coming over horizon

Reminding me I can still

Breathe

I learn to appreciate life

From her dying

The morsel of me

Though of language I only know two and

Cannot spell in either

It seems

Life is savage in her cull

The bright and wonderful snatched

Who among us had an idea of

How to die?

Then she laughs

Her teeth still white, her skin waxy and hot

And says, oh dear you!

Who among us

Knew truly

How

To live?

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17 thoughts on “In her cull

  1. Four years ago, a good friend of mine died from an asthma attack. She was not yet thirty. One year after that, another good friend of mine died from cancer. She was not yet forty. Both had a beauty to them and strength that I could never match. On my bad days, I think of them. One left a husband behind, the other, a husband and two handsome boys. I don’t know why reading this made me think of them…

    “A scratch board of operation knives
    She reached me
    As I sat in my safe world
    Pulled me through
    I smelt anticeptic
    Read her clever whirring mind
    Far too smart for this dull world
    How can such people die?
    She laughs and says
    At least I’ll go young and whilst I have my looks
    So long as you don’t show the undertaker my scars”

    Dying is almost never a welcome subject to discuss for some, but I’ve seen affinity for the topic, a somewhat undeniable respect for it. This is sad yet revealing yet admirable and hurtful too.

    Peace, Candice.

  2. The image you chose of the poppy is perfect. I can’t stop looking at it. Ten years ago I had a vision, Death teaching me how to die. At first I was frightened and then when I realized fighting only increased the pain, I surrendered. I paid close attention to the breath until there was no more distinction between me and my breath. I had melted into it and it was eternal. Maybe this has something to do with what your friend was saying about living? Your poem is profound.

  3. I agree with other comments, Candice – a profound and powerful poem about death and loss. Death is something I think about every day, as so many of my friends and family have passed…. Wishing you comfort and peace, my friend. ❤️

  4. ‘Tis you who are the light in the darkness, Candice. And as for death, it’s something I’ve never been afraid of for myself, and am usually philosophical about it. (My fear is for any pain and suffering, however, which your poem depicts so poignantly). The loss for those of us left behind is hard, however. And so I feel for what you’re going through. 💓

  5. Oh how this rings with me as of late. So much time spent around hospital and doctors and the cold and unfeeling light of florescent lamps. Profoundly beautiful, Shieldmaiden. ❤

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