Memento Mori (from the archives)

Some Errant Wednesday Thoughts

It’s Wednesday, which means I’ll spend
the afternoon at work at the reference desk.
But I’d much rather stay comfortably at home,
sip poured-through coffee in my pajamas,
and read poems my friends post on Facebook.

And what will they say of my verses when
I am gone, done? It’s fair to be circumspect about
the other side, the end of now. Do you think
they’ll call my verses amateur (that’s what I call myself,
I’ll never make any money off non-rhyming poetry!)?

Will they criticize my work as shallow,
superficial, a bit naive? Or maybe dark,
troubled, complex (only out of a sense of charity,
of course). It won’t matter that much to me –
I’ll be resting peacefully, with the poets, by the river. 

Subway poem #7

There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
and corners. Just cartons of documents,
​details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
these papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.

Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
and deeds, archived records we leave behind
won’t deliver souls to any heaven –
or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
as truth, the certain object of our faith:​
​d​ried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.


If I should die before I wake —
Oh, never mind. My soul will know
exactly what to do when darkness
envelops me and she is freed and free.

Stuff my mortal remains, whatever’s left
of me, in a weighted wooden coffin
like the ones we kept in stock overseas
in abandoned embassy warehouses.
Put me on a Navy warship – bury me

at sea just beyond the 12-mile limit –
in international waters – let me sink
silently, peacefully to the bottom,
where lost shipmates are still on patrol,
and my ancestors await my return.

Damascene Sonnet

You lose some things you cherish as you pass
Through life’s transitions. Letters you received
May not survive a flood — first drafts of poems
You wrote get lost in shipments — coffee mugs
Disappear, book collections may not stay
Intact when divorce or death part the waves
Of time. Friendships and associations
You thought would be there in your grayer years
May only survive a season, or not —
And reasons for a friendship come and go
Like tides that flood and ebb and flood again.
The things that last a lifetime, then, are rare
And few, and even random….so enjoy
The fleeting now, breathe deeply, smile freely.

empire sunset

at the end of time
sunset will seem to last

a thin red strip
on the horizon,
thinning, flickering

in its futile attempt
to stay, to widen
to reverse time –

but we all know
that time only reverses
itself in poetry –

and in Superman movies
when Lois Lane dies

and the Man of Steel
reverses Earth’s rotation
to forestall, reverse
her death’s circumstance.

At the end one might
even be persuaded
that that sunset is itself
a beginning –
a dawn, not a dusk –

but that would be
a deception.


I’ve dodged some bullets
in this life. Cigarettes
won’t take me out,
nor alcohol or drugs
though I may get run over
by a car in the crosswalks
in this town. And there’s poison
all around, in the food,
in the water and air
that might just be the cause
of my eventual demise.
But it won’t be sudden death
or overtime. No, this game
will end in regulation time.


some days I think my poetry making
is done. I try to turn a verse or two
and it all falls flat – no rhythm, no rhymes,
no magic, just words and punctuation.
I need some time at sea to stir things up
a bit. A trans-Atlantic crossing would
be optimum – a paddleboat up the river
will suffice. I’ll always and forever
be a man of simple pleasure. But the air
we breathe is full of negativity.
All the canaries are dead, heaven-bound
in this brave new world where skepticism
is not allowed. A heavy fog surrounds us.
Which sentinel species is next in line?

Still life

my ideal still life painting would contain
a non-microwave safe cup and saucer,
a piece of ripened fruit, a wind up watch
with a leather band, and a book, hardbound,

with several bookmarks and tabs. On a desk.
And maybe reading glasses, depending
on the reader’s (and the painter’s) needs.
I’d stare at that canvas, and wonder

if he (or she) drank tea or coffee, hot
or lukewarm like I like it. I’d wonder
does the book have poetry inside it,
the bookmarks and tabs for his (her) favorite

passages. I’d hang it beside my wife’s
painting of the river ferry crossing.

Author: Raymond Maxwell Librarian, archivist, retired foreign service officer and Navy veteran.

3 thoughts on “Memento Mori (from the archives)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s