Isn’t Every Death Untimely?

Minor headline in the news: Woman Mistakenly Pronounced Dead 
Found Breathing in Body Bag at Funeral Home. The woman may 

have been an octogenarian, but still. Apparently this is not such a rare 
occurrence. Now I wonder about the Lazarus  story though a sealed cave 

is probably not as claustrophobic as a body bag. On a discussion thread 
about what to do when caught in a burning building, someone suggests

looking for a plastic garbage bag, blowing as much air into it as you can, 
then tying it around your head as you look for a way out. You'd last 

perhaps five minutes if you take only shallow breaths; but then, 
the plastic would almost immediately melt in an atmosphere of 

intense heat. There are so many stories of people brought back 
from death or near death, or at the very least some kind of waiting 

room. I'm reminded of that scene where Voldemort hurls the killing 
curse at Harry Potter, whose soul splits in two— the Harry soul 

and the Voldemort soul. They're at this King's Cross Station platform 
curtained with light, with the Voldemort soul curled up under a bench 

like an emaciated fetus. It's hard enough to imagine dying of natural 
causes, let alone by asphyxiation, accidental or not. I'm reminded 

of that beautiful genius, Frederic Chopin: frequently ailing, he died 
so young—only 39. He had a great fear of premature burial; and so, 

before he passed, he wrote out a little note of instruction:  As this 
cough will choke me, I implore you to have my body opened, so that I 

may not be buried alive. He wanted his heart taken out of his chest 
and buried in Poland. His beloved sister smuggled it out of France

inside a jar, where it floated like a pickle marinated in cognac.  
It's said that once, he saw a small dog chasing its own tail 

around and around. This supposedly inspired the "Minute Waltz." 
You can see and feel the whirligig movement in the opening 

measures: it rushes and swells, picks up in pace, until it arrives, 
breathless and panting, at the end; but then it wants to do it again. 

2 Replies to “Isn’t Every Death Untimely?”

  1. This poem is very timely in light of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. I have severe claustrophobia, and once wrote a poem about a woman in, I think, Mexico who was a pregnant bride, buried alive. her husband tore his hands apart to get to her, but got to her too late. I’m still haunted by that. As well as the woman in the condo collapse in Florida who could be heard in the rubble but was not found in time. So watching the news today, and I am overwhelmed. Then I read this poem, and thank you for making beauty out of horror.

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