Poetry

Marie Howe – Death, the last visit

Locking its arm around you, it will hold you as long as you’ve ever wanted.
Only this time it will be long enough. It will not let go.”

– Marie Howe


‘When death comes, like a hungry bear in autumn… like an iceberg between the shoulder blades…’—Mary Oliver’s surreal imagery of advancing death relates to the unexpected nature of our intrinsic ends that are nonetheless foreign to us and dreaded by us. Marie Howe’s ‘Death, the last visit’ offers a different, highly sexual vision of transitioning out of life through a double-take on la petite morte, the experience of orgasm as a little death. In reframing the fear of extinction through love and intimacy, beauty and even a sense of relief, Howe’s haunting poem invites us into an ecstatic place of the life and love forces that exist entwined with the truth of their own endings.


Death, the last visit

Hearing a low growl in your throat, you’ll know that it’s started.
It has nothing to ask you. It has only something to say, and
it will speak in your own tongue.

Locking its arm around you, it will hold you as long as you’ve ever wanted.
Only this time it will be long enough. It will not let go.
Burying your face in its dark shoulder, you’ll smell mud and hair and water.

You’ll taste your mother’s sour nipple, your favorite salty cock
and swallow a word you thought you’d spit out once and be done with.
Through half-closed eyes you’ll see that its shadow looks like yours,

a perfect fit. You could weep with gratefulness. It will take you
as you like it best, hard and fast as a slap across your face,
or so sweet and slow you’ll scream give it to me give it to me until it does.

Nothing will ever reach this deep. Nothing will ever clench this hard.
At last (the little girls are clapping, shouting) someone has pulled
the drawstring of your gym bag closed enough and tight. At last

someone has knotted the lace of your shoe so it won’t ever come undone. 
Even as you turn into it, even as you begin to feel yourself stop,
you’ll whistle with amazement between your residual teeth oh jesus

oh sweetheart, oh holy mother, nothing nothing ever felt this good. 

Marie Howe
From: The Good Thief


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