It's rare that I read a poem these days that moves me as "Last Day on Earth" does. The poem doesn't do any wild gymnastics or surprise me much in its form, but the slow unwinding of the evening, the northwest feel (although I suspect it's Maine), and the reference to death all hold my attention.
Of course the hypothetical movie reference captures my interest right away.
I need to remind myself that there's still a place for honest, old fashioned, narrative poems. This is especially so for poems that acknowledge our limited time on this planet and do so with humor (the dog no longer limps) and beauty "the cold towers of clouds."
Poetry Daily is a site that posts a poem a day picked from current journals and poetry collections. If you haven't yet discovered it, you're in for a treat. Every Sunday night I receive a posting that tells me the poems for the week. I think its been going since the beginning of the internet --- or close to it! I hope you enjoy.
Last Day on Earth
If it's the title of a movie, you expect
everything to become important—a kiss,
a shrug, a glass of wine, a walk with the dog.
But if the day is real, life is only
as significant as yesterday—the kiss
hurried, the shrug forgotten, and now,
on the path by the river, you don't notice
the sky darkening beyond the pines because
you're imagining what you'll say at dinner,
swirling the silky wine in your glass.
You don't notice the birds growing silent
or the cold towers of clouds moving in
because you're explaining how lovely
and cool it was in the woods. And the dog
had stopped limping!—she seemed
her old self again, sniffing the air and alert,
the way dogs are to whatever we can't see.
And I was happy, you hear yourself saying,
because it felt as if I'd been allowed
to choose my last day on earth,
and this was the one I chose.
Number 88 / 2012
Number 88 / 2012