Death’s Turn



Death’s Turn

How long it takes
for death to turn the stomach,
its odor as ochre as goldenseal
stopping the throat.

Unhabituated, we’re sickened, sure,
but like a child swallowing a roller coaster, gullet tense
so stretched,
we still–early on–relish the drop at the top, the spin
to our bottomless sure seat, locked guards against
our buckle.

Bitterness a supposed virtue
in the medicinal–
oh, the drama–
we even nibble
at Death’s edges, inking its stink
with a tincture of svelte shadow.

Until all those little doses climb,
like our clackety strapped cart,
to some high teeter
and of a sudden
we’ve had it up to here–
Death there–
cancer on our corner–

We want
to throw it all up–
all clots of seeming,
any empathy that even slightly smacks its lips.
We want something strong–
red wine, dark chocolate–
to take the taste–
open air,
bared arms,


Please don’t be alarmed.  I’ve had no bad diagnosis, just heard bad news of a few different friends.  I am doing a poem a day for April–this my third in three days–ha!–and I am also posting this for Claudia Schoenfeld’s post at dVerse Poets Pub about writing a poem about emotion that doesn’t name the emotion.  Not sure if it qualifies, but know I haven’t used the word “despair” in there. 

Note that I am going to have a hard time focusing on visuals this month–so they may not always fit!  I thank you for your indulgence in advance.  (As I say that, I realize that they often don’t fit!  Oh well.)  


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25 Comments on “Death’s Turn”

  1. brian miller Says:

    confronted with death we can feel so helpless….esp if it is someone we care about wanting to take away the pain or the inevitable end…it def shakes us up…feeling that inner rollercoaster….

  2. clawfish Says:

    helpless almost suffocated that despair is so unsaid but evident , brilliant

  3. Death comes in all its woe and steals our breath, our peace. You have so vividly given a voice to the terror that besieges us when we must watch someone walk the valley of endings.

  4. claudia Says:

    i’ve been confronted with some people having been diagnosed with cancer just recently in the company and it’s so tough… the despair can be clearly felt…

  5. This is stark yet lovely. Yes, you convey the emotion very well – it totally fits the theme! 🙂

  6. kamana Says:

    heartfelt write

  7. Powerful metaphors reflect well your state of mind.

  8. Brendan Says:

    Strange — as you much more aptly phrase it — the precipicial thrill of getting close to death. What inks a pen better than another close brush? But the sourstink of the real deal–like the real deal–is so much more difficult. Thanks for the ride along the rim. You’re a much braver soul than I to attempt a poem a day.

  9. Imminent death brings forth the strongest emotions, the ‘despair’ as you have so eloquently written about is evident. the first stanza was a stand out for me, well penned.

  10. hedgewitch Says:

    This just knocked me for a loop, k–to borrow your absolutely genius metaphor–I often write casually of death as if it were just one more color on the palette, a special shade of black, no more, but here you make it all too real, and in a very subtle and convincing way. It is one of the Big Things, and too often we borrow its mojo without thinking of its devastating reality. Just excellent.

  11. It is inevitable, isn’t it? death? You give us the unnerving sensations related to seeing it in the near future, approaching it more rapidly than ever imagined. Strong write.

  12. Glenn Buttkus Says:

    I still believe death is but a doorway, but cancer as a catalyst has always angered me. My mother died of cancer at 39 years old in 1966; “tis a shame,” one doctor said, “for one day soon we will find a cure for cancer.” Pipedreams for sure, as carcinogens abound, surrounding us, waiting for a weak moment, an unlocked door, a window ajar; trillions of dollars of research thrown at it; what folly for a species that cannot yet cure a common cold.

  13. This is a fantastic metaphor for life, the “clackety cart” going up and over……..I love the comfort of red wine, dark chocolate, to ease the bitter down……….so sorry about your friends. Cancer is everywhere now.

  14. I especially like how you use smell and sight in the beginning to describe the helplessness when confronted with this… love it.

  15. Laurie Kolp Says:

    Oh, wow. A powerful reminder of how precious time (and our health) really is. I especially like:

    we even nibble
    at Death’s edges, inking its stink
    with a tincture of svelte shadow

  16. Truedessa Says:

    The word death brings visions of darkness but, there is light through the doorway for the departed..the ones that are left
    behind feel the sting of death..just my thoughts..I think you captured the emotions well in your writing.

  17. I liked the visual – fear, dread, despair – all here I think. I like your word choices, your juxtaposition, your roller coaster metaphor – as there is such a seduction of death by the young and later such a revulsion and fear. Well played, my dear.

    I’m doing April Poetry too. I kept my challenge small – haiku/am. sentences with a photo a day. It’s a worthy challenge. I’ll try to stop by when I can.

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