The Rules of Being Dead

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I never hear that someone is dead
What do I hear instead?
Misplaced noises,
quiet sniffing, sobbing
chappals on the verandah
bare, shuffling feet
paying respects – respectfully
an obituary brought to life
in fewer words.
All talk of the dead is dead talk
beating around the bush
hedging truth
softening the blow.

There is no fear of death
only a fear of being overheard
talking about it.
If death could strike anytime
and any moment could be our last
then it must be here already
eavesdropping.
The first rule of being dead
is that no one can say you are.
The second rule is that
the awkwardness of an eulogy
is proportional to its length.
The third rule of being dead
is that you really don’t care
what anyone says,
you only made it so far
being glad it wasn’t you.

Do me a favour, will you please?
Don’t mourn. Don’t burn candles.
Don’t spend days
thinking of detours
around my absence.
Put the flowers back on the stem,
enjoy the ou d’oeuvres
even if they’re vegetarian
think of a joke I’d have made
that isn’t.
Think of what I’d have said.
It’s all right, I’m dead.
I was alive, but now I am not.
I was.
You knew.
Let me hear the past tense
in your voice,
the quiver in the open syllable,
let my legacy be more
than silence.

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