Monday, November 4, 2013


Warning! The following blog post may not be conducive to a carefree happy morning.

We all try to express our feelings; and I for one always fall short.   As I approach mid-seventies I am reminded of my aunts’ comments about their grandfather (my great-grandfather) at Thanksgiving: Each year he would preface the meal with the statement “We may not all be here next year.”  It was a family joke – to everyone except him.   

It is very easy when you are young to dismiss the understated concerns of the old.   After all, who wants to dwell on dying?   The young note it and move on – it is not real; but for an older person that specter is just around the next corner - waiting to reach out and grab you when you pass by.  It is real.  

I refuse to dwell on it…until four-o-clock in the morning.

I can not write the words of those early morning thoughts; but that is all right for they have already been written.  

If you have not read the poetry of Philip Larkin – you should.   I view him as the present day equivalent of Robert Frost.  And for that four-o-clock hour he states it on the mark – for me. 


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   
Till then I see what’s really always there:   
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   
Making all thought impossible but how   
And where and when I shall myself die.   
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   
—The good not done, the love not given, time   
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,   
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill   
That slows each impulse down to indecision.   
Most things may never happen: this one will,   
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without   
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave   
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.   
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,   
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

The Ol'Buzzard


  1. It's not being dead that scares me but the dying. Worse than that even is my fear of being left alive alone.

  2. What I have a problem with, in these later years is...why are we not supposed to know what is to come?

    I have come to two conclusions: 1) It's not that we aren't supposed to's that there is NOTHING to know. 2) We are not supposed to know because we cannot in this pitiful state, understand. Naturally, I prefer the latter, but...

    I love this poem, incidentally.

    1. Death is the final debt we owe to nature.

  3. I used to work with a guy who said, at the end of EVERY work day, "Well, that's another day closer to the grave." He was right of course but the repetition of that fact was grating.

  4. I was much more obsessed with my own mortality when I was young. As I get older, it doesn't seem to be such a big deal. I have a friend who is a sculptor and we have been discussing making a memorial lawn naughty dwarf for me. I would like that.

  5. Why dwell on the inevitiable? Enjoy it while you have it. Trust me, after a brush with prostate cancer - I put that behind me and had a cold beer right after seeing the urologist and getting the new PSA (1.29) number.


  6. The thing I've noticed is most of those older folk that talk about not being around next year live on and on. When they finally do go, most people have a hard time believing it.


COMMENT: Ben Franklin said, "I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false."