With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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My grandfather, a man I met once in Bangkok,
whose lungs had blackened from years of puffing a pipe,
asked for one more smoky breath, asked to die
with his addiction, his last words a stream of smoke.
I want to go out like the immortal poets:
Blake singing a poem before dying —
words he loved enough to capture on the page.
Or Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
her husband asked how she felt
and “Beautiful” is what she said.
Or my favorite, the words a diabetic should die by:
James Wright, afflicted
with the C-word of the throat,
writing on paper, “I’m dying. . . ,”
and those around him crowding in,
expecting to see
what all survivors want — words to live by, or with,
the words of Buddha himself,
“. . . to eat ice cream from a tray.”