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The Poem of Death

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This is the poem of death.
There is only one
and no other.
Every one is an occasion,
one way or another,
and the last poem is this poem of death.
It is an occasion like no other.
I will no longer lope after elegance,
beauty’s body, or love’s wonder.
I will be sorry for everything
I was, and for everything I was not.
I speak to you as if you were my brother.
I will forgive everyone.
Death will make this possible.
There will be no other.
Death was in the mind
before thought or love,
in ourselves, and in our lovers.
The poem of death is speechless.
A companion will appear again
like another self, like your brother.
Enough now, enough has been said.
The spinning leaf will spin
like no other.

Michael Gessner, "The Poem of Death" from Selected Poems.  Copyright © 2016 by Michael Gessner.  Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2016)
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The Poem of Death

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  • Michael Gessner was born and raised in Michigan. He earned his BA from Wayne State University and his MA and PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has authored 11 books of poetry, essays, and fiction, most recently Selected Poems (2016). Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he has been a finalist and semi-finalist in various competitions, including “Discovery”/The Nation poetry contest, the Pablo Neruda Award, and North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize.
    Although Gessner wrote poems in his teens and published in little magazines since his 20s, he published his first chapbook (Earthly Bodies) at the age of 60. Aside from experimental poems in L e t t e r s (2007) and Artificial Life (2009), Gessner’s poems are typically lyrical and elegiac. Robert Pinsky noted the musicality of the poems in Beast Book (2010). In Gessner’s collection Transversales (2013), Rebecca Seiferle found “a music of the mind...

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