Like That
by Jeeni Criscenzo
November 2019  

Thoughts on the sudden passing of a poet I’d only just met. 

It could happen, just like that
In a snap of a twig, fracture of a bone,
It’s happened like that.

It could happen with a mass murderer’s bullet piercing the skull,
A sudden, pointless passing,
leaving behind grief-stricken family and friends,
stumbling about in shock
and yet another gathering of strangers
with only burnt offerings, thoughts, and prayers
silently grateful it wasn’t them or theirs.
It could happen like that.

It could happen with no time to consider
the loose ends that needed tying up,
the goodbyes that would really be sad to say,
the bucket list with no lines crossed out
through adventures one was too timid to try.
No time to consider what to bring for Christmas dinner.
The car registration renewal remaining unpaid.
It could happen like that.

It could happen after a long protracted illness.
Decisions to be made, about pulling the plug,
Vacillating between guilt and compassion
while eyes scream to make an end to it.
It could end up like that

Or it could happen when you’ve forgotten who you are,
without even the wits to look back with regret
on the choices you’ve made,
to wonder if you even made a difference,
when it happens
that the you who is you, is no longer there.

Would it matter if nothing you created lived after you?
If no one speaks your name with gratitude for knowing you?
If your garden goes to weeds
and dust gathers on your things awaiting redistribution.

Would it matter if your children
forget the sound of your voice,
And nothing you wrote remains
when your Facebook account is canceled?

Would it matter that you did the best you could,
but sometimes took the path
that was best for you?

Would it matter if you didn’t plan for old age
because you were too busy gobbling up life, voraciously?
That you chose freedom over security
and that the lack of security
nudged you toward resourcefulness, imagination, empathy?

What’s the point of preparing to live a ripe old age anyway
when the end could come for all of us
before your fruit is ready to be plucked?
It could happen like that,
to any of us.

Or our passing could be part of something
worthy of interrupting your regularly scheduled programming
for a Breaking News Alert.
An asteroid hits!
Nuclear war!
An extinction event!
We could ALL be gone in a flash!
Extinguished and forgotten like that,
not unlike the billions who preceded us
on this long winding trail of humanity,
wondering why we ever were,
and why were we swept up in this flashflood of tragedies?
Yes, it could even happen like that.

You might think me morbid to dwell on our morbidity,
but would you not be somewhat in denial of your own morbid curiosity?
Because no one has ever returned to say what comes next
and was it worth postponing all those opportunities
for instant gratification?
Passing up that chocolate volcano pie,
piled high with whipped cream.
For what?
When it could just happen like that.
Like now.

I’d have no problem with that.
I leave nothing to quarrel over.
No debts.
No regrets.
So it would just be a wrap
if it happened like that.