This one for instance,
When I have not slept well the previous night,
I wake up feeling cross.
However I am already beginning
To feel much better
Because a word I hadn’t thought of
Just walked out of its bachelor pad
Inside my brain
And took its place proudly up there
On the fourth line.
I could have said that I wake up
Feeling grumpy, or cranky,
Or out of sorts,
But there’s the word cross,
As big as life and quite pleased with itself.
When I was a little boy
Parents got cross
For reasons we did not always understand,
Teachers became cross
About excessive conversation during lessons,
And there was always at least one fearsome aunt
Who was never anything else
When I heard the word I thought, of course,
Of Jesus nailed to the cross
And felt a terrible gravity,
A weight that irascible or irritable
Could never bring to bear.
Being cross was serious stuff.
But after all these years of desuetude
The word sounds only quaint,
Without the power to frighten little children,
To fill them with dread,
To send shivers down their spines.
Grandpa says he’s feeling cross,
My granddaughter will say,
He’s a silly old guy.
“The undiscovered country from whose bourn/No traveller returns . . .”
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I —William Shakespeare
Arriving in the mail today
A promotional brochure
Offering me a reduced rate
It is not the first time
That I have received such mail
And each time I make light of it
Cracking a feeble little joke
About my inescapable demise.
But having recently endured
Surgery and radiation treatment
This time I hesitated
Before tossing the mailer
Into the recycling
And for the first time thought
Well maybe I should look into this.
It would be the responsible thing to do
Making arrangements and pre-paying
For my incineration
To save my loved ones
The trouble of scrambling around
At the last minute
To find a suitable crematorium
While my body grows cold
Lying in a rented hospital bed
By the large windows in the living room.
It could be my final act of generosity
When they look through my papers
And discover to their relief –
Oh look, he’s already taken care of it.
Here’s the number to call.
So instead of having to careen
Through the yellow pages
They would be able
To spend a few quiet moments with me
In the profound pause
Following my final breath
Before we head off in our separate directions –
They to the bustle of the noisy world
And I to the stillness
Of the undiscovered country.