Explanation of My Poem "As If the Last"

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  • Dying
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  • Living
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  • Love
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  • Life

    Poem Commentary

    I rarely try to explain my poems. Usually, when someone asks me what a poem I have written means, I reply: "You tell me what it means. You're the reader. I'm just the author." // But my poem "As If the Last" was so misunderstood by at least two people that--even though most people seem to have understood it--I decided to give this explanation and reply to those two people and anyone else who might have seen my poem the same way. // In this case, I decided to explain what I intended when I wrote the poem, not to change the meaning of the poem--any poem must mean what it means to the reader, regardless of the poet's intentions--but to explain my heart.

    Explanation of My Poem "As If the Last"


    Dear friends,

         I believe that "As If the Last" is one of my better poems. I think I succeeded in saying much, much, in it, and in saying it well.  I'm sorry that there are some who can see only sadness in this poem.

         You bet it's got sadness in it.  Like Brenda's good friend, I don't want to die.  And I'm sad about losing decades of life that were my genetic endowwment.

         But this poem is not just about being sad.  It's about loving life.  And then suddenly, having death in front of me, in its most frightening and painful form (for me).  So I make sure I am conscious of every joy of life as it comes to me, and passes from me, because it could be my last.  That's the reality I face.

         On the level of possible accidents and medical events, that was always so for me, and is so for all of us; it always could have been my last, as I could have died of an unpredictable heart attack, or been hit by a car, or any of those lurking dangers.

         But now the chances are much higher that I could be enjoying beauty and love and joy, as my days go by, for the last time.  So, I want to be fully aware of all my moments of miraculous life; of all those wonderful gifts of magic that are offered within the confines of the loan of life.  For my life, once a relatively long-term loan, appears very likely to have been turned into a radically short-term loan.

         I regret that a few people think this is mainly a poem about sadness.  Even if they can't see it, this poem is mostly about gladness, and appreciation.

         I have written some poems that are mostly about grief and fear and despair; but this is not one of those poems.  And even those poems have their place, as they describe how I have felt on certain days as I endure my two diseases--cancer; and the treatments, which themselves comprise another disease, one of side effects.  But every such poem is simply a snapshot of the feelings of the moment; not a description of how I feel most of the time.

         I was told by one person that because I sometimes feel fear, sorrow, and despair about the cacer that has invaded me and my life, that I am wiling myself to die of cancer.  I find it a false and deeply disturbing idea--even though I know it was offered in innocent good will and concern--as I think of all my loved ones and friends who have died of cancer--to try to make the claim that because they were sad and unhappy about having cancer, they willed themselves to die of cancer.

         I am not on any such path.  On my worst days of darkest despair, I am not "willing myself" to die of cancer.  On the contrary, I'm willing myself to live, always.  I sometimes despair because, based on what I'm being told, the odds against me are so huge; and that hurts me and scares me because I love life and I have a great will to live.  But it appears that my only real hope, a slim one, is in the holistic efforts I am making.

         I was told by another person that I should not care so much about my getting cancer, because--so I was told--we all start dying as soon as we are born.  Still another person told me that I should not feel fear or despair about dying of cancer, because we are all going to die someday.  Now, I know that the people who told me these things were trying to make me feel better, but I do not hold their views.  I know, from experience, that there is a huge difference between knowing that you are going to die someday--perhaps of extreme old age, peacefully in your bed, surrounded by loved ones--and knowing that you are going to die of cancer, with much of your genetically given life cut off in ruthless pain.  I believe that I was living, not dying, before I got cancer.  Now I really am both living and dying at the same time: I was only living before cancer caught my life in its death-trap.

         Before this cancer and its treatments, with their hideous side effects, I was going to die "someday" like everyone else; but I was not dying.  An apple seed germinating, on its way to becoming an apple tree, is not dying just because it is going to die someday; it is growing, healthy.  A human baby, as it develops into a child, and then a teen, and then a young adult, and finally an adult, is not dying.  Even a very old person is not necessarily dying.

         But although we are not all dying, we all have limited time.  Even though you may not be dying, you could be suddenly and unexpectedly killed by something.  Some of us will have a hundred years or more of living time before the end; some will have thirty-two years or less.  One of my purposes in my poem "As If the Last" is to motivate people to experience fully the now times as they pass into the past--to sense every passing moment of life, with all the senses fully alive and engaged.

         Dying is not something that happens to you every moment of your life just because someday you are going to die.  Dying is what happens to you if and when death enters into you, and begins the process of killing you.

         Dying is a process, one that can be very long or extremely short.  Anyone who is just suddenly killed by something, whether an unexpected heart attack or getting hit by a car, has a dying process so short that there is virtually no dying process at all--just sudden death.

         Death has entered into me in the form of a malignant advanced cancer; and also in the form of my medical treatments and their hurtful side effects.  I am still living, and loving life; and enjoying life as much as I possibly can; but now--unlike before I got cancer--I also truly am enduring a dying process.

         I was strong before.  Now I am weak. I used to be full of energy and vitality.  Now I am more tired than I can believe, and I need more rest than I have time for; and I need double the sleep I used to need.

         The treatments themselves also cause depression as one of their side effects, which I fight so I can see and hear and taste and smell and touch the gloriously beautiful and wonderful realities of my passing days of life.  Also, against the odds, I am always hoping that my dying process will be stopped--maybe by the holistic program, or perhaps by an outright miracle--but regardless, if I have to keep dying until the end, I am also going to keep living until the end.

         But what about the notion that we should always be happy and laughing, and never be sad and grieving?

         The Bible says there is a proper time to mourn and to weep.

         Ecclesiates tells us: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:... a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...."

         In spite of everything, I still get my laughing and my dancing in--and also, singing--in my life, and in my poetry.  But also...I sometimes cry and grieve...in my life, and in my poetry.

         There are poems in which I mourn and weep.  I think I am in a season of my life and in a time that is proper for that.  But my poem "As If the Last" is not the poetry of mournful weeping.  This is a poem in which I express my invincible love of life, and my determination to appreciate all its magic and miracle, in as many moments of conscious living as I can.

    --Michael LP, aka MLP

    aka PoetWithCancer, aka PWC, aka Mr. Poet


    P.S. To Melody: Thank you, Melody, for your understanding, and for your good words about this explanation, which I copy now below:


    Posted by melody 4 hours 12 minutes ago

    I think what you just wrote about your poem "As If the Last" is, in many ways, even more beautiful than the poem itself.

    But you don't have to explain yourself to me.  I know your heart, and by that I know what you meant.

    I applaud you in this gorgeous prose above.  You bring to light the true meaning of life.  Keep writing. It only gets better as the days go by.

    Melody

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    abuelita1 commented on Explanation of My Poem "As If the Last"

    11-29-2010

    And don't worry about explaining anything to ANYBODY, Michael. Your art is just that....Yours....Love.......Super Angel

    abuelita1 commented on Explanation of My Poem "As If the Last"

    11-29-2010

    Michael, I will write the same message I did on your poem before. "Thank you for giving me an appreciation, different perspective, and a love for life that is different than anything I've ever experienced. Leaving you a "touch of love: as always! ;)"

    In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.

    Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Czech writer.

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