Check out http://www.eyedrumperiodically.org/article/last-will-and-testament/ on Eyedrum Periodically. Based on the true story of a street couple in Pensacola who died within a few days of each other. They had saved up for a Halloween horror flick festival, enjoyed it together, and gone to sleep on their makeshift old couch covered by a tarp on a large lot earmarked for future development but still unconstructed. The next morning the man found his girlfriend lying dead beside him. A few days later, he died. Only a Good Samaritan who used to bring food and meds to the local homeless wondered what happened to the couple and discovered their sad end, then brought this tragic story to the local newspaper.
This poem refers to an actual event, in which a friend’s girlfriend was shot by her deranged landlady with a shotgun at close range. There was no real motivation for the killing. The girlfriend had already apparently considered death, and had requested that her remains be scattered over sacred Native lands in Mendocino County, California. Although I had never met her, I was given a shoebox carrying her remains to hold on our trip to the ceremony in honor of her life.
The original publication can be found here.
I never met you, but I met your bones
here in this shoebox cradled in my lap.
My friend, your lover, handed me the ruins
like a city blasted from the map.
One rifle shot, he said, out of the blue
went right through — your walls came tumbling down.
Now all you were has less weight than a shoe,
and none but me to hold these bits of bone
that flash white in the sunstruck windshield’s glare,
whose brightness burns your soul out of the box,
beyond this mountain drive, your friends that stare,
your ash bequeathed to winds that shift and flux,
until we stand like strangers in your wake —
shoes off, speechless, at your shining break.
Truth is in many ways elusive. If it were a weasel, poetry is not a weasel-catcher, although poetry demands a certain truthfulness. Can truth ever be “caught?” Or is it a quantum-like issue, where, if “caught,” it becomes no longer true? This view of truth changes the idea that religious dogma is “truth.” Since dogma by its nature is a way of trying to “catch” or pin down truth to limited perimeters, it cannot be truly truth.
Although it is an art, meaning an “invented” thing, the best poetry rings true. That is, one connects with it, without necessarily knowing why. It is often ambiguous, even not obviously sensible. Freed from the necessity of being sensible, poetry can give us a window to the truth by presenting the surprise elements that make everyday life more meaningful. “Meaningful” being a word that encompasses, among other things, that which is true. In this case, truth means something that has value to a person, that one’s innate sense and intuitive logic feels right about. Or finds value in.
We say, “I want to be surprised.” We want a poem to take us out of our plodding dogmas and into a world of discovery and newness, where we reconnect with the value of things. We want a poem to enhance our sense of value in life, in ourselves, in our world. We want it to bring us closer to the source code, the grail, that which is most valuable, the truth. That ambiguous, elusive, strongly felt and sensed, but hard to say or express, hit of connectedness with what really counts. Even if it is a moment of laughter. Who said truth has to be dour? Or joyful? Or any particular thing? Who wants it to be pinned down?