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In the Cold Earth and Beneath the Bluish Sky

In the Cold Earth and Beneath the Bluish Sky

Now six months after the problems on Church Street,

I’m still thinking about all the ways I might die:

All anxiety all the time

Every breath a traumatic stress

No list is long

Begin to shake as frontal lobe atrophies

Pass out in an elevator from blood sugar deficit

Sudden blinding headache

Run over by a bus

Slip in the tub

Flip out and kill a lot of innocent people with a motor vehicle,

explosives strapped to my body, or a projectile weapon

Succumb to cyanide powder inserted in over-the-counter pain killers

Choke on chemical weapons introduced into the subway tunnel

Reread "Elegy in a Country Churchyard"

The 18 Leading Causes of Death in Ohio from 1990-1998:

1. Diseases of the heart

2. Malignant neoplasms

3. Stroke

4. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

5. Diabetes Mellitus

6. Pneumonia & Influenza

7. Accidents

8. Nephritis & Nephrosis

9. Suicide

10. Alzheimers

11. Chronic Liver Disease & Cirrhosis

12. Atherosclerosis

13. Septicemia

14. Perinatal Conditions

15. Homicide

16. Hypertension

17. HIV Infection

18. Congenital Anomalies

7, 9, 15 are part of the package

They differ in every intent

And all happened at once.

The Jewish funeral ritual is concerned with:

Care of the corpse

Care of the guests

Care of the priests

Poetry has no meaning; it gives meaning.

Poetry has meaning and gives meaning: and delivery.

Ben got bitten

on the neck

by a Tarantula

in the rain forest

and lived to hear this wretched poem.

It’s not about the rain forest;

It’s about completion.


"I am sofa king.

We taught it."

Self healing computer workers are doing something so important that they pay no attention to what other people do, engrossed in their work. Even hearing about other people’s activities can aggravate them. Their negative response to, say, for example, poetry (now why would I bring that up) is not an attack on poetry, but an affirmation of themselves. But the people who are telling them about poetry don’t see it that way—they view the computer worker’s concern as a rejection of poetry. The poets react by creating contrary structures. These structures attack the computer workers and all they stand for, seeking to find problems with scientific study. In this way the focus of specialists in one field creates antagonism in another field. True for religion, true for politics, true for love, and true for one word next to another, true for some people. Yet this juxtaposition is a fact—stuff exists as a whole, like language, and as fragments, like different words. The juxtaposition of two or more things changes each of them. These relational forces are explainable in an environmental model, but not by any individual epistemological pillar. Only when consciousness disappears are these conflicts resolved.

Since 9-11 death seems more probable. Funerals are well described;

and attitudes toward the dead need to be clear as a bell:

watching the body,

cleansing the body,

dressing the body,

(where is the body?)

rending of mourners’ garments,

viewing the remains (should be "what remains", viewing what remains,

viewing what?),

the coffin should be made of wood with no nails or other metal parts

to avoid interfering with the natural process of returning to the earth,

the burial,

the mourning (there are seven periods of mourning for both Jews

and Muslims),

comforting the bereaved. (Post-partum depression occurs with both

birth and abortion.)

Every feeling in my body

Feels like death is nearby.

Every feeling in my body

Generates another poem about death.

All the rain drops.

Wind blows the clouds away.

But I suppose poetry can be fun:

Shopping for the right ritual cleansing rite

Writing down the ritual cleansing rite

Righting the tipped writing on the ritual cleansing rite

Cleansing the poetry of bodies

Putting them in coffins

Shipping bodies to different people

Recomposing a body from the parts of different people

Resending the writing to different people

Rewriting the rest of the story

The Lord wears whiteface. He shall not want.

He dives down and keeps me hard.

He leads me where it’s good for him.

He leaves me on the side of the right road and drives off.

He sends me on the right path for his nature.

Though I am wroth at the vanity of shallow deaths

I fear no inhibitor

For your staff is up my butt and you laugh.

You prepare a banquet for me to watch my foes eat.

You splash cheap wine in my face.

Surly and gruesome lies shall follow me all delays in the lift.

And I shall be dead forever.

Before I close I want to point out how the pronoun

Even in the original shifts in the middle.

The breaker was on the wall in the hall.

I’m outside and out of the mezzanine life.

He bears his duty like a lifer,

Although the metro

If it and the where are.

Do not taunt me with your lobster fork.

How the brow throngs,

And along the grim lash of the skyline

I keep waking up,

I keep waking up,

I keep waking up.

All the minutiae of everyday

Makes complete sense,

Until you think about it.

There aren’t any other ways to shirt a lead.


James Sharry

James Sherry is the author of 10 books of poetry and prose, most recently The Word I Like White Paint Considered (1995) and Our Nuclear Heritage (1991). His recent work on environmental models of poetry has been widely published in magazines. He is the publisher/editor of Roof Books and founder of the Segue Foundation.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2003

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