Size / / /

What might one write in a poem for Death?

An essay on the peace found in the grave,

a dietary plan addressed to worms,

or praise for the deceased, that one might drink

a toast to, lying quietly in the coffin,

features solemn as if just asleep?

Or should one see instead to one's own sleep

and, in that way, attempt to forestall death,

through healthy habits thus avoid the coffin,

through good eating cheat the waiting grave

and at the same time deprive food and drink

to nature's creatures, the honest lowly worms?

But yes, who of us sheds a tear for worms

that, even as we, must at times find sleep

and at times wake, must breathe and eat and drink,

and as we also end their days in death,

to stretch themselves in their own worm-sized graves,

although, unlike us, probably lacking coffins?

Is that the difference then, the expense of a coffin

that shows we're civilized, while lowly worms

go naked, naturally to their own graves,

and, while we like to speak of eternal sleep

and callings home, I wonder at worms' deaths

what lesser beings find in them food and drink.

But, ah, this is a wake and so we drink

and gather prayerfully around the coffin,

paying in that way respect to Death,

yet through embalming still seek to cheat worms

of what is their due, pretend still it's just sleep

that keeps the deceased lying in their graves.

And one more toast let's offer to the grave,

the yawning pit whose thirst defies mere drink,

whose future claim for us disturbs our sleep

as, all too soon, our beds will be the coffin,

flesh will be no more than food for worms,

and so ourselves be servants of fell Death.

This sleep is longest that is in the grave

and death for any is a bitter drink,

the coffin's treasure at last food for worms.




James Dorr's collections Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret are published by Dark Regions Press. Other work has appeared in journals ranging from Aboriginal SF and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine to Xenophilia and Yellow Bat Review as well as numerous anthologies.
Current Issue
24 Jan 2022

Piece of my essence, accept my sorry.
Some people, right? We’ll fold you into sparrows, help you disappear—I’m so glad we found you alive
By: Katy Bond
By: Averi Kurth
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Katy Bond
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents the poetry of the 24 January issue.
Hope without action behind it is only a recipe for deeper heartache.
I love flash fiction for a lot of reasons. There’s the instant gratification of reading a complete work of fiction in just a few minutes. And there’s the way flash lends itself to playful, inventive experimentation with form, prose, style, voice, and subject. I also love the way a flash story can be honed and sharpened as everything extraneous is eliminated, and the way it can capture and convey the essence of something—an emotion, a world, a situation, a possibility, an idea, even a joke!—in brilliant brevity.
Wednesday: I am the Tiger by John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy 
Friday: The Tangleroot Palace Stories by Marjorie Liu 
Issue 17 Jan 2022
Issue 10 Jan 2022
Issue 3 Jan 2022
Strange Horizons
By: Antonio Funches
By: Lev Mirov
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Dec 2021
By: Merie Kirby
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 13 Dec 2021
By: Freydís Moon
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 6 Dec 2021
By: C. S. E. Cooney
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: C. S. E. Cooney
Issue 29 Nov 2021
Issue 22 Nov 2021
Issue 15 Nov 2021
By: Madeline Grigg
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 8 Nov 2021
By: Allison Parrish
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: