Archive for December 24th, 2004


Death, The Final Arbiter

December 24, 2004


With death, the final arbiter is near
No question need remain beyond the grave
The answers — free, the question’s cost too dear.

Before the death, the death is what you fear,
A soul tries all the good it can to save,
With death, the final arbiter is clear.

And no one can escape, the end is near,
And at that final hour, payment’s waived,
For answers to your questions cost so dear.

With a demonic form, He may appear
And in that moment try hard to be brave
With Death, the final arbiter, comes fear.

And when at last the body’s old and sere,
When others come to ask, to learn, to pray
Your answers may be free, the questions dear.

So in the final moments, keep this clear,
There is no need to rant, to chant, to rave
When Death, the final arbiter is here
His answers free, His questions cost too dear.

This poem is a villanelle, a style of poetry that has exactly 19 lines with a particular rhyming scheme and lines that must repeat (although they can have subtle variations, and I did take a few liberties with strict rhyming and complete repeats).  A description of the form can be found here.  Perhaps my favorite villanelle is Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.”  Mine was an attempt to explore the answers that death brings with it when it comes and whether the price of knowing is worth the cost of admission.


I Am Alive

December 24, 2004


I am alive
I soar with the spirits of a new generation
My voice rises from the ashes of my former self
And I sing a new song.

I am not the man I once was.
Then — I hid behind the insecurities of my former self
Now — my spine is broken and I see clearly.

I have lost much
Some may say that in losing I have gained,
Yet I know that the gain comes, not in having survived the loss, but in spite of it.

I am cleaner, purer,
I am burned beyond all recognition, charred, smoldering,
Yet all who see me call me beautiful.

I still struggle for meaning,
Every day I journey through all of the hidden piles of rubble and call out names.
And wonder why.

“I Am Alive” is my poem in tribute to those who perished on September 11, 2001.  It was my attempt to set a somewhat hopeful tone to our new beginning as a country, to encourage a new phoenix to arise from the ashes of our former selves.  If I wrote this poem today, I think it would be much more pessimistic about the possibility of change – the last three years haven’t shown us heading in a positive direction.