The Mystery of Death


‘I am going the way of all the earth.’ Joshua xxiii, 14.



Sooner or later, all life dies –
rain forests or the briar rose,
the dinosaurs and dragonflies.
What starts, must end; what opens, close.


I know I too must someday go.
Inexorable death requires
we render up the life we owe.
Whatever breathes, also expires.


This precious, sensate, agent I,
comprising all I know of me,
must fade, must wither, fail and die.
I know that I must cease to be.


And yet, this all-observant eye,
that watches what I feel and do –
the I that knows that I shall die –
does not expect extinction too.


No words or music, drugs or wine,
nor sensual ecstasy, can still
that small insistent voice of mine –
recorder, critic, what you will –


my self-aware self, consciousness,
that registers experience,
demanding I should second-guess
the things I do, or think, or sense.


Beneath each I another hides,
as oceans deepen, shelf on shelf.
The schizophrenic mind divides
from every self a further self.


Shall they all die? I know they must.
But I, who know that all life dies –
that I’ll disintegrate as dust –
can’t comprehend my own demise.