Bruce Kramer: Sadnesss is a way of sensitizing you to what really matters

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I had delved down into a space where I perceived this great pool of gratitude and sadness. And don’t mix sadness up with depression or despair… All sadness is is a way of sensitizing you to what really matters, what’s really meaningful.

And death does that.

I see my death. It looms in front of me sooner than I would like, but because it’s there, because we live with that, I am so grateful for just this moment, for this time together. And that is a great gift.

  –Bruce Kramer in an "On Being" conversation. He recently died of ALS and kept a blog about it. Thanks to Maria Popova for the link.


Moshe Ibn Ezra: Let man remember he's on his way towards death

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Let man remember throughout his life
he's on his way toward death:
each day he travels only a little
so thinks he's always at rest--

like someone sitting at ease on a ship
while the wind sweeps it over the depths.

  --By Moshe Ibn Ezra (ca 1055-after 1138) from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, edited and translated by Peter Cole (2007). Cole is a poet himself and has won the MacArthur award, among many others.


Emily Dickinson: After a hundred years

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After a hundred years
nobody knows the place,—
agony, that enacted there,
motionless as peace.

Weeds triumphant ranged,
strangers strolled and spelled
at the lone orthography
of the elder dead.

Winds of summer fields
recollect the way,—
instinct picking up the key
dropped by memory.

    --Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886) 


Jim Moore: I remember my mother toward the end

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I remember my mother toward the end,
folding the tablecloth after dinner
so carefully,
as if it were the flag
of a country that no longer existed,
but once had ruled the world.

   --Jim Moore (1943- ), from "Love in the Ruins" in his book Invisible Strings (2011, Graywolf Press). Moore's poetry is currently being featured in the New York City subway.


Emily Dickinson: Her final summer

PergamonMus

Her final summer was it,
and yet we guessed it not;
if tenderer industriousness
pervaded her, we thought

a further force of life
developed from within,—
when Death lit all the shortness up,
and made the hurry plain.

We wondered at our blindness,—
when nothing was to see
but her Carrara guide-post,—
at our stupidity,

when, duller than our dullness,
the busy darling lay,
so busy was she, finishing,
so leisurely were we!

    --Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886) 


William Cullen Bryant: Lie down to pleasant dreams

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...Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world,—with kings,
The powerful of the earth,—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre.
...The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom....

As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

  --From "Thanatopsis" (meditation on death) by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), who wrote most of it when he was 17.


Nancy Byrd Turner: Death is only an old door

  AnOldEnt-1

Death is only an old door
set in a garden wall.
On quiet hinges it gives at dusk,
when the thrushes call.

Along the lintel are green leaves,
beyond, the light lies still;
Very weary and willing feet
go over that sill.

There is nothing to trouble any heart,
nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only an old door
in a garden wall.

  --Nancy Byrd Turner (1880-1971)