by Kevin Sweeney
“What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee”
Ezra Pound, Pisan Cantos, LXXXI
It’s unAmerican to die. You’re supposed to be
in yoga class. You’re supposed to know what
“Namaste” means. You’re supposed to be training
for a marathon. At least a half –marathon.
You should be running in place while waiting
in line. You don’t want to waste a minute of
training for the future. There’s always a future
in America. We’re all moving forward, reading
the June edition in May, January in December.
It’s already a new year.
It’s more unAmerican to die young, and everybody
is always young in America though young gets
older every year. Your contemporaries read obits
like box scores, trying to discern a strategy: hit and
run, steal second, maybe third, but never home. Don’t
swing at bad pitches, smoke cigarettes, pile up carbs.
Even then, no guarantee. You get a good look at the
fastball but swing too soon. The last pitch is high
heat, impossible to make contact. If only
you hadn’t swung early.
Other poets say nice things after you’re gone
(“thy true heritage”). Your name appears on
rewards for those who remind them of you:
They remember what “thou lovest well.”
They know it’s unAmerican to die, to die young,
but poets are apostates who understand America,
palpable and seen, isn’t right about everything
or everybody, that Elysium awaits. Elsewhere.