Perspective: ‘Deathbed Dream with Extinction List’ by Claire Wahmanholm

Poem’s text:

Over the past five months, I have been to too many funerals of too many loved ones. The compounded grief certainly adds up over time, and the subsequent idea of futility is equal parts inviting and ensnaring.

Reading this poem was something of a lucky chance. Over the past two months especially, my engagement with poetry has been negligible, even if explainable. Still, without even paying attention to the title and the implied substance of the poem, I found myself strolling through a forest of time-gone-by, inhaling a woven tapestry of lost things that live on.

Reading this poem has given me two gifts: the first is a reminder of how little I know, not only of things present, but also of things past; the second is an appreciation of presence at a time when the definite seems all too fleeting. While this first gift is repeated with every passing picturesque example, the second jumped out quite unexpectedly from a single sentence:

I hadn’t thought to see the Japanese sea lion

again, or for the first time. 

I was watching a film tonight, the premise of which basically boiled down to the idea that nostalgia is easy, simplistic, and escapism. It’s not saying that it’s inherently bad, but that it might be the more banal of options. It is nice to see something again, can be warming to rekindle what was. But what are the chances anything happens for the first time? What are the odds of initial experience?

I miss those who have moved on, and any person who does has every right to. But we’re left with an option after such a time: do we live for again, or for the first time?

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