Dorothy Barresi


The Last Poem




Let last words be

what last words are,

a string of perils


in a tabernacle of human clay.

Selfish, sexual, galling, moored, glorious:

they are baptize, yes,


but capsize, too.

Stutter and halt.




Take this helpful test at home.

Is your tongue going slack

in the trophy room of the mouth?


Are the old poems

dissolving under heavy use?

Are disappointments returning on ships


you once commissioned

along the salt & silken

trade routes of the heart,


and every hymn you've ever sung

echoing back

as though, just now, a great rat-maestro were conducting


his entire symphony of gnawing?

Prepare yourself then.




Take the garbage to the curb.

Sort your laundry according to genus and species.

See the cat but do not kick it.


In your rose bed

a thing glows.

It is the long-lost chip of a murdered president's


occipital bone and the perfect

flint to start a fire.

Warm yourself.   The Surgeon General


and the mad scientist

cannot save you now.

Lost is lost when it comes to this.


And although the last poem reserves the right to speak

when spoken to, in a language

more dear than purple,


a French phrase comes to mind-- douce doleur .

We love our lives, and then


we are gone.

The last poem is non-transferable.

That much, at least, seems clear.