In Response to Death

I shall be more than a visitor upon this earth.
Cities and countries stabbed with green push pins
in a yellow brittle map upon the wall.
Dog-eared journals full of must-sees checked off in red.
Christmas cards sent round the world
Best Wishes from lillian embossed in gold.

When I die, my life shall not flash before me
like quick bold lightning, jagged and gone.
I shall keep everyday images seared in my heart.

Eraser smudges on valentine red, paled with years.
The familiar slant of my daughter’s hand,
scribbled note stuck on refrigerator door.
The love of my life, head bowed, dozing in his chair.
Our white house, its wide open yard
where we chased fireflies on warm Iowa nights.

Visitors tread imprints upon the ground
disturbed, then gone with the slightest breeze.
My death shall leave my laughter and my grin
my dancing spirit and my quirky ways,
some of me in those I leave behind,
having lived and loved upon this earth.

Ah serentiy

For today’s Poetics on dVerse, the Poets’ Pub, Mary asked us to write a poem in response to another poet’s work. I’ve chosen to respond to Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes. You’ll notice that my first line cues off her last line.  History:  I wrote the first “edition” of this poem as my very first assignment in a poetry class I took in February 2015. Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems Volume One is the first poetry book I ever bought. This Pulitzer Prize winning poet, motivated my first attempt in the start of my poetry writing. This new version is quite quite different. I like to think I’ve improved in my creative writing attempts over this past year!


39 thoughts on “In Response to Death

  1. whimsygizmo January 19, 2016 / 5:56 pm

    I absolutely love this. We should all be so lucky to linger a little like this, leave this kind of legacy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lillian January 19, 2016 / 5:59 pm

      Wow — just posted. So nice to see your immediate response. Yes — this kind of legacy with just the few people in our lives — so much more important than having “achieved” on the job etc. I’m always reminded of the saying that someone said….”when asked on your deathbed what do you wish you’d done…no one says, I wish I’d spent more time at work!” Thanks for the read and reply 🙂 Shall be reading others’ posts in the AM, over my two cupse of coffee! 🙂


      • whimsygizmo January 19, 2016 / 6:08 pm

        (You come to my email inbox now. It only takes me a few poems to recognize – and follow – a gifted poet.) 😉 Thus, the quick response.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lillian January 19, 2016 / 6:09 pm

        Blush. Thank you!


    • Melinda Kucsera January 19, 2016 / 10:27 pm

      I agree! I especially love all the little, but telling, details you weave through the poem like snatches of memory. “When I die, my life shall not flash before me
      like quick bold lightning, jagged and gone.” –that line is especially arresting; it made me stop to wonder what kind of impression I am leaving behind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:31 am

        Thank you, Melinda. This was a special poem to rewrite — looking back at my first attempt at poetry. And yes — I am thankful for every day — meaning the mundane, gentle, sometimes crazy things that go into life.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Melinda Kucsera January 20, 2016 / 10:57 am

        You’re welcome 🙂 It read like a special poem; the memories touched on had that treasured quality 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary January 19, 2016 / 6:43 pm

    Oh my, what a wonderful poem. And nice to meet another person who is a fan of Mary Oliver! This was one of the poems I was considering writing a response to as well. I like the idea that when you die your life will not flash before you, but you will keep those everyday images etched in your heart. They are the ones that matter, aren’t they! I think Mary Oliver realizes this as well. And I like that your death will leave your laughter and your grin. What a wonderful legacy. And it is nice to think that these traits will live on in others after you as well. Really, I enjoyed this SO very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:34 am

      I truly enjoy Mary Oliver’s writing. She’s from Provincetown, MA — we go there for 2 weeks every year. Used to be in July – now in our rejuvenatement period (never say retirement), we go in September. Provincetown is, and has been for many many years, a muse for so many artists in so many mediums. If you take a gander at the Cape Cod pictures I’ve posted in that section of my blog, you can easily see why. Town is extremely proud of Mary Oliver! hmmmm how very fitting that your name is Mary 🙂
      So very happy you liked the poem. I am indeed, thankful for every day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mary January 20, 2016 / 8:08 am

        I HAVE been to Cape Cod, have spent some time in Provincetown as well. Really a beautiful area. And, yes, so many artists there. Actually a similar ambience to Wisconsin’s Door County – which ALSO is a peninsula. Many artists there as well!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lillian January 20, 2016 / 8:23 am

        Grew up in Waukegan, Ill so have been to beautiful Door County. Small world! 😊


  3. katiemiafrederick January 20, 2016 / 12:17 am

    as Love
    painTing colors
    more.. Love gRows
    young.. dead or alive
    on.. iN eYes
    that feel uS now..:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:37 am

      Tis the continuity of life. I truly believe there is some of so many people in me….I am not just one being. We…..become.
      Thank you for the read and your thoughtful reply, Katie.
      Thankful for every day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 20, 2016 / 12:44 am

    What a wonderful poem. This is exactly the kind of faint traces, the little things and memories are so much more than marble headstones. I can truly understand your love for Mary Oliver.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:40 am

      ah….the edifice of the marble headstone….so cold, so stern, so “commemorating.” I truly do believe we live on in others. And in the same regard, as we get older, from the moment we are born, we are “becoming.” Heady stuff this kind of philosophizing! 🙂
      And yes, Mary Oliver is quite an amazing poet. Her “natural” poetry, with Provincetown, MA as her muse, is so very beautiful as well.
      Thanks for your kind words here, Bjorn. Glad you liked it 🙂


    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:41 am

      So nice to see you this morning over my first early cup of coffee! Sipping and smiling I am.
      Thank you for the reblog! 🙂 Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:43 am

      Many many thanks. I truly enjoy Mary Oliver’s work. In some ways, it seems presumptious to respond to her amazing poem….but it was the very first assignment in poetry I had (at my ripe old age last February 1 when I began this journey in writing) and so I wrote the original. Very very fun to see how far I’ve come…….ah that we all could approach the genius of Mary Oliver! She is quite an amazing woman. 🙂


    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:48 am

      Thank you, Lucy. As I’ve mentioned above, the original draft of this was my first attempt at poetry. For almost a year I was taking poetry writing classes (online) and enjoyed them so very much. My mentor stressed the importance of details…..but then sometimes I can get bogged down in them too. It’s a thin line to be creative…and I’ve learned that once the poem is written and out there, anywhere, for people to read, each reader connects in their own way. So, very very happy to see your comment this morning over my first morning cup of coffee. You could not have said anything else to make me happier….again, many thanks for the read and the kind words! 🙂


  5. vronlacroix January 20, 2016 / 7:19 am

    In those mundane moments of life, it’s hard to imagine that we can each leave positive, memorable footprints. Your poem reminds us to do just that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bodhirose January 20, 2016 / 1:50 pm

    I read this exact poem from Mary Oliver and almost wrote a response to it but ran out of time to write and ended up choosing a draft of another poem of mine instead. Really loved your response. It sounds like a loving and full legacy that you will leave behind when you go, Lillian. You can’t ask for much more than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 6:11 pm

      Her poem is really stunning! So glad you liked my response. I am indeed trying to leave that legacy — and am thankful for every day I have to laugh and love!


  7. Debi January 20, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    “some of me in those I leave behind,
    having lived and loved upon this earth”…. beautiful poem

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian January 20, 2016 / 5:22 pm

      Thank you so very much. I’m very glad you liked it.
      Thankful for every day!


    • lillian May 24, 2020 / 1:01 pm

      Oh my goodness! I am so honored and humbled by this. Thank you for reaching out. A marvelous sermon.

      Liked by 1 person

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