"There Are No When Words"

This poem's title is one of my personal favorites. It deals with death, imagined as the time when street lights come on, children go to sleep, and you close your eyes to rest. The title is a mash-up of several phrases we hear around the death of a loved one: "when words fail", "there are no words", "there is nothing that I can say" and so forth. That's true, all of them. But more than that, when looking back on a life, there are no words that really sum up exactly what "time" it is. There are no "when" words. Only "is" words.

"There are no words, when, well..." They said, cornermouthed and quietly, Whispered elegies like midnight And that old train sounds so far away. "Sometimes." The day, long and tiring, wanes The last of its Heat into the night. Street lamps flicker, Unattended. Children (unmine like that general Easiness in life and that comfortable Skin thing is unmine) sleep. Bills unpayed, debts accumlated. The taste of vinegar and sausage Is in my mouth. The sound of something loudtimes In the warmly cool spring light, and now all ahush, Comes nearby, like some ancient couple Arguing a brand new thing; Too oft renewed to be understood. Like a piece of cloth, Falling to the floor. Like eyes blinking, closing, And getting what we might call Rest. There are no when words, Only the infinite now (This shushed, still night And its spiderfeet sounds) And states, like ice, melting Into puddled streams; Eulogies spoke Cautiously.

This poem written by W. Doug Bolden.

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