whatever leads to joy, they always answer

will schwalbe:

…a friend told me I had to read a collection of poetry called What the Living Do. It’s an extraordinary cycle of poems, published in 1998, by the American poet Marie Howe, related to the illness and death of a younger brother from AIDS.

One of the poems is called “My Dead Friends.”

MY DEAD FRIENDS

I have begun,

when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion

and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child

in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads

to joy, they always answer,

to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy’s ashes were—

it’s green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.

Billy’s already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I’ll do.

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