A Postmortem Guide
By Stephen Dunn
For my eulogist, in advance
Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can't you see I've turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles?
Go down to the old cemetery; you'll see
there's nothing definitive to be said.
The dead once were all kinds—
boundary breakers and scalawags,
martyrs of the flesh, and so many
dumb bunnies of duty, unbearably nice.
I've been a little of each.
And, please, resist the temptation
of speaking about virtue.
The seldom-tempted are too fond
of that word, the small-
spirited, the unburdened.
Know that I've admired in others
only the fraught straining
to be good.
Adam's my man and Eve's not to blame.
He bit in; it made no sense to stop.
Still, for accuracy's sake you might say
I often stoppped,
that I rarely went as far as I dreamed.
And since you know my hardships,
understand they're mere bump and setback
against history's horror.
Remind those seated, perhaps weeping,
how obscene it is
for some of us to complain.
Tell them I had second chances.
I knew joy.
I was burned by books early
and kept sidling up to the flame.
Tell them that at the end I had no need
for God, who'd become just a story
I once loved, one of many
with concealments and late-night rescues,
high sentence and pomp. The truth is
I learned to live without hope
as well as I could, almost happily,
in the despoiled and radiant snow.
You who are one of them, say that I loved
my companions most of all.
In all sincerity, say they provided
a better way to be alone.
Not a day I want to remember. Neck: sore and itchy, and the stitches are so close to my hairline that it is absolutely impossible to keep a bandage on because the tape gets stuck in my hair and pulled around. Lunch: at Legal Seafood with mother since husband had a lunchtime meeting with some big honcho from corporate headquarters in New York, excellent as always, plus she bought me a micro back bag to use as a wallet with a strap so it can be carried independently as a purse, so that part of the day was very nice. Kids: let's just not go there. I want to throttle one (although, since I am his mother, everything he does wrong in his life is my fault, according to him) and the other wants to throttle me (because, since I am his mother, everything that goes wrong in his life is my fault, according to him). Evening: older son's annual school science expo, which was fine, crowded, less celebrity-laden than usual which was fine with me because instead of going to see local celebrity anchorman we left early. Night: drove home in pouring rain,
See, I would have liked middle school science if I had gotten to do projects like this, microwaving marshmallows to see how hot they had to be to
This girl tested whitening toothpastes on brown eggs. I believe Rembrandt won. Maybe the girl with the marshmallows can test the results on her teeth.
Younger son's favorite project, since it involved penguins and other birds. Considering that he will not be attending this middle school, he was remarkably pleasant all evening.
As always, projects with animals were very popular, especially pets (this one was on which kitty litter clumped most effectively) though there were also a lot of projects on Mad Cow Disease.
The straw bridges were displayed on the stage of the cafeteria.
The coolest display, put together by a science teacher, was this "crystal cave" with samples of minerals from caves and fossils set into the papier mache walls on either side.
Yeah, very very tired. Maybe tomorrow I will have thought of something coherent to say about Tasha and the Poison Spike Glove of Doom.