When Death Moved In [Poetry Friday]

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

I hadn’t planned to post today, but this past couple of weeks, death has been touching the lives of Randy and me a lot in various forms. The death of our beloved dog, the death of a drum corps friend, the death of a comedian much admired, and the death of a well-loved musician…

I am always aware of death, so this poem first draft I’m sharing is not factual for me (I also don’t really have a horse named Mae or any horse, sadly–last week’s poem was pure imagination). But I was just trying to capture that unsettling feeling when death seems to have moved in and become way too familiar, making itself at home. I might work on this some more. And I wanted it to be a #poemsketch, but after a couple of hours of messing with the Wordswag app, I gave up on this one!

When Death Moved In

Death used to be
a distant dictator
wearing a dramatic black cloak,
erasing faceless hordes of people,
picking a famous one now and then
just to get our attention
I didn’t like him then,
but he was no connection, no threat
Just a name in the newspaper

But not long ago,
Death moved in to my neighborhood
Nobody welcomed him with brownies,
but he stayed anyway
and planted a disturbingly lush garden
of blood-red lilies

He visited houses at will,
not even pausing at
ADT warnings and No Soliciting signs
He just glided in, uninvited,
wearing jeans and a hoodie,
and left his cold, slushy bootprints
all over freshly mopped floors

My friend down the street opened the door to UPS
(she thought)
and then gasped, doubled over,
gut-punched by the guest
who came and stayed

We tried a petition,
public shaming,
and an official complaint to the homeowners’ association,
but it turns out Death doesn’t play
by anyone’s rules

© 2018 Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

And for lots of wonderful (hopefully cheerier) poetry, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with Jan at Bookseedstudio!

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33 Responses

  1. Clever and gripping, Laura. The second to last block of text has real punch… not sure you need those additional lines that shift the mood almost to peppy or cute. “It turns out Death doesn’t play by anyone’s rules” might be integrated earlier. Your observation that Death isn’t cowed by ADT warnings/No Soliciting signs has real impact. Jeans and a hoodie remind me of youth.. not as menacing as an older itinerant,/wanderer or even a dapper gentleman in a jazzy suit. Only one opinion, of course This has real promise. My condolences on the string of losses of people important in your life.

  2. Laura,I’m so sorry about the recent losses in your life. I think we’re at a similar age, and I’ve sadly noticed a similar phenomenon. Your response is chillingly clever. Those cold, slushy footprints left by a gliding death…the gut-punched neighbor…So many things make this a powerful poem. I like the unexpected idea of Death in jeans, hoodie and boots. It makes me think of youth and strength and the casual aspect of it also appeals to me. I’m still pondering all the whys, but your poem really moves me. I’ll be printing and saving it to read again. Thanks for writing and sharing.

    1. Thanks, Molly. Yeah, when I hit 50, it felt like death started hovering. Not around me, but so many people in my general sphere. Thanks for your thoughtful feedback:>)

  3. Appreciations Laura for what you & your hubby are going thru. I am sorry about the loss of your dear pet & all the other wonderful spirits in your world & I can only hope that time will buffer this unfortunate confluence of sad events. Thank you for creating & sharing this heartfelt & memorable poem. With hugs.

  4. I am so sorry Laura. I’ve been thinking about Jack and am very sorry to hear of your more recent losses. Death is not a good neighbor, but somehow in its cruelty it can be an excellent reminder. (I give it brownies sometimes for this reason.) Lots of love to you and to your family. xxxxxx

    1. It definitely IS an excellent reminder. Without death, life would be sorely undervalued. Thanks for the love. Others have it much worse, of course, but it has felt a bit like death lurking recently.

  5. Whew. I guess Death moved into my neighborhood when I was fourteen, and never moved out. This poem explores some really interesting imaginings and I find my mind’s eye drawing a particularly tidy neighbor whose lawn is scissored into perfect length, and whose edge has sharp angles. So much exacting perfection, and then he visits MY house, and… there’s so much left undone…

    1. What the hell. I’ve thought about that a lot–how lucky Randy and I have been relative to many others. And your last line–yes. Always so much left undone, which makes choosing the right things to get done all the more crucial. I’m sorry you’ve lost so many, Tanita.

  6. Was just noticing the influx of names at our local funeral home. Sorry this seems to be happening up there, too. Your poem certainly hits the emotions. The last line is sobering. I’m glad you shared it.

  7. Laura, I am so sorry for the losses you are experiencing. Your poem hit me in such a powerful way especially that image of death traipsing through and leaving a mess where he is certainly not wanted. No, death does not play by anyone’s rules.

  8. What a powerful depiction of death — it captures perfectly that insidious feeling that you’ve been experiencing about death moving in to stay, the whole concept of death as a ‘thief in the night’ is captured here as well too. Thanks for sharing your pain with us. Sending you comforting thoughts.

  9. Coincidentally, I just finished reading a YA novel where Death is a character (called A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares) .
    Sorry that you have had so much to do with Death, lately, but what a clever clever poem, Laura. You have captured so well that sense of death changing from something removed to something far too close for comfort. Hugs to you xx

  10. I am sorry again about Jack, and now all your other recent losses. Death does slip in no matter how many signs, perhaps even floodlights warning intruders, if I may add to your poem. You’ve brought a modern look at other’s poetic imaginings and it is wonderful, Laura, though I’m sad that it had reasons to be written.

  11. My sister recently experienced the gut punch. Her best friend’s husband dropped dead. Left a beautiful wife and 3 young children. Why? We always look for a reason and usually there is none to be found. I love the cleverness of this poem. Thanks for putting your thoughts out on your sleeve and letting us in.

  12. The personification of Death can make it easier for us to think and talk about mortality. Do you know the children’s books Grandy Thaxter’s Helper and Cry Heart, But Never Break?

  13. I’m afraid I met Death rather earlier than you. That’s why I’ve always felt each day is a miracle. An opportunity. Now he’s given me a long vacation. I hope he give you one soon, too.

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