Remember Death

Remember Death
–circa 2011
–for the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God, Father Michael J. McGivney, Knight and Brother

Practice resurrection daily.
–(Br.) Jim Siwicki, S.J.

I. Vivet

practice medicine…law…
practice liturgy…practice music

…practice penance

and prayer

they call it the making of perfection
but rising is not perfect here

… yet.

days are long, morning of imperfections
to errors by evening
faults growing larger tomorrow

and evil enough for today
is a quaking tomorrow,
propagating uncontrollably until

a sacrament

a sleep

a rest

four things
last things

…life is short and the art—?

too many small deaths long.

II. From October

months before, I
took to the flame
in the middle of the night

pushed to try
and work through the nights
again, I had only my choice
but to finish changing my life.

Change is a constant, insofar as I’ve observed,
the constant we all mistrust, insofar as I’ve heard you say,
a socalled flux of loathing in verbal disgruntled
bitterness and fluctuating breath at some point in life.

Change is what reminds us
to remember that one day
the change to the greatest unknown
will befall us. Change

that will affect all

those who care for you or me or us

that change of night fall upon life temporal

in change I hope for Word eternal.

In hell do I wander, wondering
when I passed through

the thudded impact of change

echoing until the entering of

the hopeless gate.

If you’re going
through Hell, keep
going were Churchill’s words:

They call it my cross. I call it
my sword. Heavy metal armaments.

My pen falls, ink-dry, and
stabs into the ground,

dead after wandering into wasteland,
a hospital stay,
body of dead weight,

and putting all else in order
for the first time since rising.


Not all change is for the better,
but a change for good, to good,
the first change for the good,
life to death, no. || now: … death to life
like something out of nothing,
the practice of resurrection.


I’ve a pen, laid down
like man’s greatest
known love.

I’ve a pen and I
give you charity
like salt to your wounds,

the wounds you don’t know you have.

It stings, I know.
Your wounds are sterilized
in the antiquated way.

And now you must show the Physician,
for this, I can not do for you.

I throw the salt,
the pillar I’ve become,
to help you.

Change is not the constant:
the grave is.

Don’t call me a Fatalist.
I hope to rise again
and take up my pen.

III. Third Isolated Vision

The second time I heard
its laugh. Now it dares me
eye to eye. I whisper
‘raqqah’ to the fool.

What thing goes on
waging conflict
once defeated
with its own sword?
The naught thing, it appears.

Ever in retreat… .

My eyes open
a month after
I had been drawn up from burnt shadows
and two weeks after
the smoke that chills

IV. What is Truth?

I see a sword–
a heavy two-edged sword–hilt high and point buried.

A Cross stabbed into the world.

Man knows no love greater…
Blood runs down the grooves,
blood of an innocent ‘enemy’ sacrificed,
willingly become our sin,
laid down
out of love, love for

The last burnt offering
rises again.

God sacrificed as an animal for a meal.
Behold the Lamb.

Love your enemy
and a sword turned to a ploughshare.

Behold the Lamb. Behold the Man.

V. Seventh March

Storming with insecurity
, the canons as a shield,
His direction: “can’t” and “because”
A year and three months to build the pyre
Flames spit smoke sideways sun flurries.

VI. April of the Great Passing to April

Spring is time for the plow turn:
hardened soil, frozen after last year’s crop,
turned over, chaffe’s ashes spread
for resewing.

The rains, they are refreshing,
thundering in the second April,
though in the first,
alighting God’s bow at rest:
peace covenant for the Great…

A white horse and a bowman.

In the mud,
the plow yoked heavy,
the fisherman turns the ox
to the next line of the field
… a fisherman retired to the vineyard,
where the work in spring
is the hardest of the year.

It was last years straw they stocked
the stacks with, the ash from it
used to give nutrient to the vine.

The bells toll one April,
and in the next, the field
grows a different crop: figs.

Still too weak
and little nourished
to find light away from
the soil, rooted in the world,
under the earth’s surface
as tombs, as catacombs.

When mustard grows,
the soil is salted by its seed,
so only mustard grows.

VII. May Ninth

A Fatalist’s liberation.
Three hammer strikes.

Ferrar, your trumpet blast!
The bowls withheld for mercy’s sake…
a delay
for the repentance of the remainder
expected; we look for them all.
A time,
and two times,
and half a time.

Behold the horse of black.

The pyre’s smoke spent,
the deserts grown
to glass and
the Great Famine and a Torrent for the Ages.

So many clouds, the Sun is forgotten
and all but the elect are disoriented.

A hastening to swiften the time of the suffering,
a swiftness for the sake of the elect,
motus in fine velocior.

I saw them descend like lightning for the Harvest
as the locusts fled the light.

VIII. Wrecking the Wrecked

A 3 A.M. Holy Hour
, it was the only time with no adorer scheduled,
so I signed.

I finish a Chaplet to Saint Michael,
a Chaplet I’d received
four years before.

Driving to a Texas parish
2 A.M. hour to be on time
in the unlit night,
I pass where an offramp
ends to frontage road.
I saw two lights
at the swift–
they doubled over the dividers twice
before I heard the screech
of braking tires impact
my ears.

It should have intersected
with my driver’s side door,
but, airborn over the curbs, halted,

I was past the off-ramp exit
turning towards the on-ramp entrance
before it occured to me that it should have been
the sudden impact as to a brick wall
leaving both cars crumpled, mine t-boned
in the sudden halt of careening almost
3 A.M.

Holy Hour
and I was on time
to be four years later.

IX. Remember

again, and I
confront death
a year after I’d been hunted.

I’ve been unable to admit
to myself, to you, to us
how I did it:
I’ve said I didn’t know
I’ve called it black ice.

They call it being out of control
or having no control and losing control
though none make quite the same statement;

I lost control
of the car then the wheel,
as I had my life.

Not certain still which was symbolic for which,
my eyes went wide before the wreck
rather than during it
in a momentary realization
that what I thought was control,
was leaving only a wake of wreckage.

And yet it was still just
Another turn
about the pitch
black gyre.

February was the bottom of death
where the bottom gave way again to what is darker.

This was the culmination of a year
of clutching what cannot be grasped–
of descent one night to the next,
never daylight but a year of fighting
to prove I didn’t need to be here–

I called it an experiment to prove determinism wrong
by proving I could choose to do nothing
and then, perhaps I might feel nothing. No Fatalist here, sure

That was a way of ignoring that death
had hunted me, and that
death has terrible aim.
This February is the final regress of death.
This is all February.

This is all the day of battle.
Defend us for I
atrophe until then.

A small death in the beginning rises to a small life in the end.
Many small deaths in the beginning rise to a life loved in the end.
He who loves his life will lose it, he who hates his life will have it for everlasting life.

XI. The Waking Hours

Like praying for Death
to rise from that deranged
mausoleum for necrose minds, I close my eyes.

The sounds of the siege engine
are a din of light through the windowed door
as the half hour’s Watchers glance.

Is it my breathing or my roommate’s?
Is it an inhale or exhale that turns agsinst
the clock I hear sleeping while I tick in darkness?

My roommate is named Michael.
My physician had said I was near death,
or I was told as much nine years later.

Really, though, it was death
that was near me.

It’d been near me before.

It retreats leaving a void behind it
that turns against being and one’s being
until the fractures splinter
near toward disintegration,
that sifts the wills of the world
in a cyclone turned up by the fear of admitting defeat:
naught rattling loud to mute naught.

A heaven made of hell
and six weeks before nine more.

I remember everything but sleep,
which means I remember death.

I can put none of it to order,
none of it oriented, none of it clean.

Naught has only
disorder in the pitch
black of its embers.

Do not hope to understand
for entering the appeal to know its stratagem
is the abandon of all hope
is the strike against the birth
is the suffocation of vitality.

Do not look long on the shadows,
do not try to satisfy a curiosity in the dark;
there is no reason to these irrational reactionary.
only bring what is in darkness to light,
only let go of the knots or be dragged down.

A retreat toward nothing, pride refusing surrender
a rebellion to prove something is not
a flight away from the creating, as futile a failure as death.

This contranatus is permitted its corrosive contact
with existence for no more than this solitary reason:
to be conquered by the Cross which it sought to make its weapon.

I was in the darkness. I remember everything.
I whisper ‘raqqah’ to the fool,
and close my eyes.

XI. Din at the Areopagus

Their idol was not unnamed
but of two, neither true:

Poseidon and the spawn of the raucous:
the Roman name in neglect.

XII. Five Robbers and the Hopeless Gates of a Crook’d City

Robbers raiders deceivers and thieves
and the color of the Medicci’s armor, wrong.

Ash, I turned to ashes on a Wednesday,
an outside influence–my brothers, gone

the hunter tripped her snare,
there were never brothers, but slaves there.

XIII. Crown of the New Millenium

“This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?” –from A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt

…and from the hunter’s snare.

nothing was in the right
and the chairs toppled
toward their left.

eight months after the shattering
of reflection decayed.
eight months in the darkening
what will you turn to?
what will hold you up
when all are gone?

eighteenth new years
and the first of memory.
so accustomed to no acquaintance
no companion no one

How can a family be so unfamiliar?

Where was I in all of it?

foot in the fault, snare snapping tight
my fault, ten months familiar,
like eighteen years before
and now, eighteen years later

all I know,
despite every unfamiliar effort to become familiar,
remains the familiar unfamiliar

XV. Butterfly Fracture

the doctor called it.

A compound fracture
with a floating bone.

Friday night sedated, Macbeth clasped tight
in one or the other hand, the nurse joking, desensitized,
or dehumanized, drip’s needle in my arm in her hand
that now, maybe Shakespearean verse, you’ll understand.

Saturday morning in surgery.

Saturday night, the morphine drip.
Morphine alone with the television,
two buttons, A button for the morphine,
B button for the nurse, d-pad
for a skull all but falling from my shoulders. Memento mori.

The surgeon and parents return Sunday morning.
a Saturday alone, with two buttons, a television
and a phone, and they give some information,
asking what was just said, possibility of drool from my mouth
and the words of clarity by the professional:

“we’d better take him off that morphine”

Thanks Doc. Cyclonic. The first Sunday morning
in the onset of a fourteen year flight,
too doped to rise.

XVI. Marionettes

Turn off any screen and any light bright salesman device you purchased to bring inside your doors.

Let us pause from our shell-shock to lay our dead to rest.

XVII. The Comedy of Dark and Light

The Fifth Verse of the First Chapter of the Gospel According to John

XVIII. The Tragedy of Light and Dark

The relative, the familiar:
the irrational demand
the frightened compliance
the mitigating muted mediator.


I am apparently at fault
for not deserving the dignity
of a direct address
yet know not how to speak to any one
no matter how I might desire to admit my love
or believe when I hear a similar admission
but to speak away and around the beloved
in that foreign and alien way in which
none ever seem to have spoken to me.

I am not alone in this
realization of loneliness.

Ghost in the past tense.
We are all ghosts here.
When were we not in the grave?

XIX. Idaho Basement Protocol

My sister arrives when I am two.
I turn four and see with sudden clarity.
I open my eyes just before eighteen.
I recognize what I see eighteen years beyond that

XX. Remember, Ruach

…you were not dead,
but asleep…
…the first death, like falling asleep,
is eternal possibility…
…fear of the Lord and the dread Judgement seat…
the second
and eternal life,
or the second and eternal death.

First life, first death. Sleep and wake. Practice daily.
hope for the reward, hope for perfection.
one in His light.
…you are still breathing—
remember, and don’t stop,