The Poet’s Death Bed

The coroner was greeted by the deceased’s wife at the front door when he arrived, gave his sincere condolences, and was shown upstairs to a small room with open blinds, leafy plants in one corner, and a single bed embracing the body. The only other furniture was a chest-high bureau, a tiny night table, and a tall bookshelf with a large looming bust of Shakespeare on top.

On the green walls were two undersized heads of Holmes and Watson, a poster of ‘Father Goose’ airborne in his ultra-light aircraft surrounded by geese, and a framed poster of an old Dylan Thomas LP showing an imagined boy flying freely above a fantasy town.

On the other wall was an Alex Colville showing a young woman riding her bicycle in sync with a crow in flight beside her and yet another poster of early Canadian voyageurs paddling into a mysterious mist above the morning waters.

Only then did he choose to look down at the deceased stretched out, as he had been found, on the narrow bed, covers pulled down. The man wore only modest briefs and had been left that way for the coroner to discover when he entered the room. There was no sense of struggle or signs of anguish, only a strange peaceful look on the dead man’s face.

The coroner continued his examination and wrote down his findings and verdict on a clipboard he had brought with him. It was when he stood up that he noticed a piece of paper underneath the night table which he bent over and picked up. It appeared to be a handwritten poem on both sides which went:

“It is no longer for me to say for you.
You will need to fill in the blanks yourself,
to answer the remaining questions,
to find your missing peace
and decide which dream is worth
the living and dying for.

It remains but for you
to walk alone on that beach
with nothing but your thoughts.
It is up to you to decide
if touch is the best art of all
and if an old Inner Child still lives.

It is not in this poem then
that someone will smile fondly at you
and find all you say so interesting.
It is no longer the job of this poet
to free you, to whisper your name,
or tell you where all the treasure’s hid.

No, it is you alone
who will write the last poem, love–
your very own, and tell us all
who you truly, really are.”

He thought for a moment and replaced the paper under the night table for someone else to find later. The quality of his day forever changed, he was about to leave the house when a family member appeared and inquired about the cause of death.

Normally he would have said nothing and maintained confidentiality, but he thought back to the room and what he had seen and read there which had moved him unexpectedly. “Heart failure,” he said.

Outside, the coroner got into his car, started it, and turned on the radio, immediately searching for a classical FM station. “Poor devil. Like all high romantics,” he thought to himself as the music began to flow, “his heart just gave out finally.” And he wondered, about the poem’s significance, what the poet’s life must have been like, and then, suddenly, what his own sad end might someday be.

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