The irony doesn’t escape me. At the Joy Cafe this morning, I was studying death notices hoping to home in on a new obituary assignment. Beside me on the desk, where I generally land a true-to-life, page-turnable book all loaded down with words, I placed a poetry anthology called Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley.
I chose this book from my shelf a few days ago and offer myself three poems a day.
I chose this book because earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear disasters, and dictators threaten to knock me flat. Poetry breathes. Even between online and newsprint pages of death.
And at the Joy, no less.
This morning’s poem by Romanian poet Nina Cassian presented images I must now share with you.
Call yourself alive? she asks in the first line.
She gives examples of what “being alive” is like. Here are her exquisitely crafted metaphors.
You’ll feel your pores opening like fish mouths and you’ll actually hear your blood surging through the lanes
You’ll feel light gliding across the cornea like the train of a dress
You’ll feel gravity like a thorn in your heel
And your shoulder blades will ache for want of wings
Call yourself alive? I promise you
you’ll be deafened by dust falling on your furniture.