The Death Deal

I first heard this poem about death when Garrison Keillor read it on The Writer’s Almanac, February 10, 2011. It’s a remarkably entertaining and realistic look at the way one’s own actual death might take place, and what would be, for the poet, the most desirable of all ways to pass on.  

It’s something we all think about, but for which not much certainty is possible. Suicide is certain, of course. But putting that aside, I favor the way Ron Padgett comes to peace with his favorite option.

Ok. After lunch, let us know how his conclusion resonates with you.


Ever since that moment
when it first occurred
to me that I would die
(like everyone on earth!)
I struggled against
this eventuality, but
never thought of
how I’d die, exactly,
until around thirty
I made a mental list:
hit by car, shot
in head by random ricochet,
crushed beneath boulder,
victim of gas explosion,
head banged hard
in fall from ladder,
vaporized in plane crash,
dwindling away with cancer,
and so on.
I tried to think
of which I’d take
if given the choice,
and came up time
and again with he died
in his sleep.
Now that I’m officially old,
though deep inside not
old officially or otherwise,
I’m oddly almost cheered
by the thought
that I might find out
in the not too distant future.
Now for lunch.


ron-padgett-author-photocrop-johnsarsgard

Ron Padgett grew up in Tulsa and has lived mostly in New York City since 1960. Among his many honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters poetry award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Padgett’s How Long was Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry and his Collected Poems won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Los Angeles Times prize for the best poetry book of 2013. In addition to being a poet, he is also the translator of Guillaume Apollinaire, Pierre Reverdy, and Blaise Cendrars. His own work has been translated into eighteen languages.

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