We Must Learn to Die, a poem by S Francis

We must learn to die: this is all of life.
The piling of dirt awaits us in the end
Or, should we choose, ashes tossed at sea.
We must learn to die: else what all is life?

So the philosopher teaches us, intelligent beings
Aware of the rain that beats on the bulkhead
Exterior to our rooms, reminding us of the cold
That awaits, should we depart this comfort.

Inside, the world is warm enough, the tea
Steeped, the books grateful to be read, paper
Thrilled by the sensual flow of ink on its
Too long since touched skin, lines quivering

In ecstasy. Somehow these words we’ve chosen
Reach inside the womb of blackness to invite
Life back out to shimmer with the passionate
Cry of a lover who embraces a little death.

Written following reading a letter from Rilke to Mimi Romanelli on December 8, 1907 a translated by Ulrich Baer and published in The Dark Interval: Letters on Loss, Grief, and Transformation and published by the Modern Library in New York in 2018.

(C) Stephen Fuller, 2019