Learning to Die

by Joanna Gilman Hyde


My political science professor says
to study philosophy is to learn to die.

Like the good pupil I am,
I experiment with stillness.
I slow my breathing until it stops completely,
my pulse growing softer and fainter,
a clock with a stalled tick.
I am Captain Hook’s crocodile,
a swallower of time.
It tastes metallic, I bite down,
then it tastes like blood in the mouth.

(Is this right?
Am I doing this right?)

Like an engine, I experiment with stopping and starting.
I move my fingers, one at a time, I twitch,
kicking in the coffin.

I listen to the dying voices outside my door
(they whisper like wind chimes on a breezeless day)
I listen to the dying music beneath my floor
(it climaxes and falters and sputters and dissipates)

I practice dying so that one day, when I meet God,
He will be impressed with the elegance…

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