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.

One comment

  1. This comment moved from the old blog site — original date lost.

    Hi, Mr.Barkowitz!

    I think your poems are pretty cool, especially the one about snow. I’ve never heard about villanelle, so thanks for a little literature lesson.

    Merry Christmas and New Year!

    Sincerely, Eujin

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