Sunday, July 20, 2014


Sumptuous Mortality

Children’s veranda in the
lowbreathed summer twilight:
‘if I should die before I wake’ lingers
erosive     engraving

O     not alone     ‘my soul to take’.
The sweetjuice hay of nightbreath
smothers in luxury. Who doesn’t
burrow into being
deaf to not-life for

sleep, a time of sleep.
A handkerchief of waiting daylight blown
in esperance: enough.

Margaret Avison. Always Now. Volume Two.


What is our life expectancy? We look at ancestors who died in their 40s, early 60s, 80s. We consider the conditions of their living and passing, and extrapolate our years through the statistics of our improved nutrition and health care and presume we will live…more.

As children we kneeled by our beds and prayed the historic prayer, pushed ourselves up to slide over the sheet, dusting our bare feet off one on the other. Curled in the dark we silently amended the prayer, but not for a long time if you please.  The many versions first recorded in the 1800s are basically the same but they differ in the last two lines.  “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” seems a heavy burden for a nine year old. Less Catholic prayers exhort angels to watch over me, or simply pray for safe guidance through the night. Considering the various plagues from which children in the 1800s died, any of the versions would suffice.

On Sunday night as we mentally move into the demands of Monday morning, we scarcely consider our death. We prepare to commence another week of busyness and stress. But a friend reminds me on Facebook that she has survived cancer and achieved another birthday. Others have not. Bear with me.

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