POSTCARDS FROM THE DEAD
Warm here and always in between —
neither sunset nor sunrise. An amber half-light
feathers the air — never intensifies or fades.
No time, but beauty, like Alaska in summer.
And everywhere, the smell of honeysuckle,
which is the same as sadness, the same as peace.
It rises in waves and soaks each of us,
saint and miscreant, the same.
Whitman can see the light from the house,
every shade pulled back, every door
and vaulted window open. The music inside
unfurls and falls on him in golden petals.
But he chooses to sleep down here with us
in the garden, and makes his home
among the crawling creatures—not of earth,
not of death, but of words and memory.
Their spindly legs and crystal mandibles
tickle poems into his naked back.
Living too long was not our problem:
nor was the thing we most feared — not death exactly,
but the slow narrow pathways to dying. Still —
it’s hard, at the end, to let go. To slip out
of the loose fitting dress of yourself and, without tripping,
walk through that open door. We savor at the end
even the pains of living, the joy of water
sprinkled onto our shriveling tongues,
the memory of eating peaches straight from the can,
the thick syrup sliding down our grateful throats.
— AE Hines
Originally published in Third Wednesday, Vol. X, No. 1, Winter 2017 issue.