Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux share Marie Howe’s (1950- ) “Death, The Last Visit” in their book The Poet’s Companion. I like that it gives a very different perspective on death. Death is neither thief nor comfort; death is a lover, the moment of dying, an orgasm.
Locking its arms around you, it will hold you as long as you ever wanted.
Only this time it will be long enough. It will not let go.
…You’ll taste your mother’s sour nipple, your favorite salty cock
and swallow a word you thought you spit out once and be done with.
Through half closed eyes you’ll see that its shadow looks like yours,
a perfect fit. You could weep with gratefulness. It will take you
as you like it best, hard and fast as a slap across the face,
or so slow and sweet you’ll scream give it to me give it to me until it does.
There is no fear of loss or ending in this poem, only completion. In Eastern religions there is the thought that it is not the thing itself that makes us happy or sad, it’s how we think about it. Nothing is inherently good or bad.
In an often cited survey, a majority of respondants said they fear public speaking more than death. But recently a friend mentioned she’s excited because she has several speaking engagements and she loves making presentations. Her statement shifted reality. Just knowing that an introvert like me enjoys speaking, makes it easier to enjoy it myself.
Addonizio and Laux observe, “Poets are often people who must write to process their experiences and feelings; writing is, in a very real sense, a mode of perceiving the world, of taking it into ourselves as well as trying to externalize what’s inside.” Through our writing, we try on different perceptions for size, experience our lives through different lenses. “Death the Last Visit” also shifts reality for the reader. It gives a different perpective on the final experience of life: death.