Like a post-doc post-graduate student, I’m looking forward to being – not dead – but post-life. Post-life, with post-it notes to remind people Look, I was here. Post-life, I’ll be lighter and all my vanities and anxieties extinguished. Post-life, my romantic life will resolve into fond memory, blurry videos where the real me used to be, fuzzy enough to distort wrinkles or asymmetries into oblivion. My internet profile will live on without me, probably more popular than before. Post-life my books will become better sellers, my professional self easier to swallow, harder to critique. Not dead but post-life, I will leave this weak and fragile body behind, become a beam of light in a field of daffodils, float, a paper lantern, into the sky, free of tethers, tassels, telephones, trappings of the old me falling away, a road-trip of destiny. Drop me a note, will you? Drop in! Post-life will be nothing but firefly freedom, a freefall into formlessness, finally.
Self-Portrait as Circus Performer
Delighted at my contortions, you might move closer to study the manipulation of space and illusion, to peer into the lion’s mouth or study the toes of the tightrope walker. The aerial silk, the stilts, the sequins. But see? Even as you watch I collapse in a cloud of tulle, and the horses rear in disarray, the feathers on their heads askew. The glitter on my fingers, the smudge of paint on my cheek, you will notice how the trapeze swing goes lower each time, how each voltige and banquine, each act of sword-swallowing and fire-breathing has brought me closer to the mouth of death? How each mutant and mermaid blurs, by a trick of light, into my mirror image? Can you be sure those aren’t my silver scales? Can you be sure you didn’t see the faintest hint of wings? Let me dive again into the open air, no net, silver ribbons flying.
-- Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the FloatingWorld, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter and the winner of the 2015 Moon City Press Book Prize for Poetry and the SFPA’s 2017 Elgin Award, Field Guide tothe End of the World. Her poems have been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily, as well as in collections like The Best Horror of the Year.