This is Poem #22 in my series of poem-responses to life's Big Questions, a poem-a-day project to mark National Poetry Month (NaPoMo, April 2013). Of course, death and dying are always significant questions.
What does it mean to die? Has anyone come back to tell us what really lies beyond? It is an inexorable truth, but aside from the clinical meaning of dying, what emotions are felt at the critical moment? Has anyone come back from the other side to confirm certain romanticized beliefs about eternity thereat, or infinite bliss with one's Maker? Is it true that beyond it lies "the nobility of man, and beyond it the only hope?"
YEARNING FOR THE OTHER SIDE
When I am dead, my dearest,/ Sing no sad songs for me,/Plant thou no roses at my head,/ Nor shady cypress tree:/ Be the green grass above me.---Christina Rossetti
When death and dying are lumped together
as “kicking the bucket,” there seems little
reason for a lachrymose ritual that will cost
a lifetime’s nest egg. And yet, and yet.
A send-off at sea is as good as any–one
is flushed off the starboard to become part
of whence life came, or where it ends. Debris.
Do not send for whom the bell tolls, some
tired man holding a ready bucket of waste,
warned the unready, unprepared, or untidy.
Inexorably, inevitably, the bell takes its toll.
Like a confusing game, kicking the bucket
is nothing but a tiresome waiting game.
Let the jasmine bloom where they may,
when they may; no one has yet come back
to say if they, too, were enriched by manure
from the overturned pail, nor say, when the day
the game ends, they had no bucket of waste.
—ALBERT B. CASUGA