Learning to Die

My political science professor says
to study philosophy is to learn to die.

Like the good pupil I am,
I experiment with stillness.
I slow my breathing until it stops completely,
my pulse growing softer and fainter,
a clock with a stalled tick.
I am Captain Hook’s crocodile,
a swallower of time.
It tastes metallic, I bite down,
then it tastes like blood in the mouth.

(Is this right?
Am I doing this right?)

Like an engine, I experiment with stopping and starting.
I move my fingers, one at a time, I twitch,
kicking in the coffin,
kicking in the womb.

I practice dying so that when the time comes,
the movement will come natural as ballet
and I’ll go into the grass with grace and finesse.

I will not struggle,
will raise no fanfare, blare no trumpets.
I will come to rest like the tune of a music box
growing slower and fainter as the lever winds back.

(I am learning not to go out with a bang,
I am learning how to pass gently by)

I watch smoke unfurl from the end of my friend’s cigarette,
hoping it will teach me something about softness
and the art of floating away.

There is so little time, they say.
Don’t waste a moment.

I chew on this piece of time, thoughtfully,
until my jaw locks,
and it has lost all taste.

I am settling into the shell of myself.

There is time, still, for this.


5 thoughts on “Learning to Die

  1. This is an exquisite poem. I especially like the personal parenthetical comment:

    (Is this right?
    Am I doing this right?)

    Who declared your poly-sci teacher an expert in the philosophy of death? Done it once or twice, has s/he?

    Beware teachers and other false profits (intended spelling).

    I’m glad to see/read/hear that your college experience is enriching your poetic life.


    1. I’m so glad you liked this one! College is doing much to stand in the way of me and my writing, but I’m fighting through it. Poetry is the homeland, and I’m always on my way back to it from wherever I’ve wandered.

      Thank you, as always, Alice, for your wisdom and insight 🙂 I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Thoughts? I love those.

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