“Clarify your intent,” — Lama Chopra, our
meditation teacher, rang the bell for us to
sit — “the Reaper was once an old friend.”
My empty mind was eating me up: black
bit-strings of acid. My poems were hot-
spots. I was mapping the mess like a
An old friend. I shut my eyes momentarily,
sensing snowflakes, the floaters of starlight
white roses where the serpent slept in
paradise. He hides in grass shoots in
the bardo of dying. In no time, the wind
blows and I clear the quicksand in my
rickety funereal boat.
Paddling downriver, I blink in the hot sun
(Styx is more of a bog, with no rapids to
speak of) pretending to observe as an old
friend who reports back to the living. If I
weren’t already dead…
“…ah, you’re convinced!” Lama Chopra
shook his head — my darkest lie, my false
protection! “Never fall for that. The dead
dream as much as you or I. In fact, most
have died many times. Living is relative.”
Shape-shifting, I figure, is for getting out
of deep water. I’ll be a turtle or frog hiding
among the rocks. Being a snake would be
a problem: I’m afraid I’d be mistaken for
the devil. As an owl, I’d be a laughable
I’d prefer no living creatures were in sight,
but I admit I’d be an obsequious hypocrite
were a wizard nearby: he’d teach me to
survive as a vulture who’d airbrush the
Carrion’s plentiful here; per his instruct-
ions to live off the dead, I’d embody a
sorcerer’s wisdom: Death is not an end, just
a disappearance, so long as you can die again!
Rebecca Lilly is the author of poetry collections such as You Want to Sell Me a Small Antique, winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize, and has recently appeared in publications such as Hotel Amerika, Stand, New American Writing, Phantom Drift, and Denver Quarterly. She is also the author of an upcoming collection of flash fiction through Broadstone Books.
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