Preparing Oneself for Dying


I strive to find a method

for a confrontation with what must be done

to save my children from the task of doing it when I die.

Make lists.

Make lists.

I sharpen pencils with an out-damn-spot intensity.

In shaded rooms,

on yellow pads,

I hide myself from sun

to settle my affairs:

“The Steuben heart of glass, though chipped,

will go to Bet, who never scolds imperfect hearts.”

“The primitive I painted years ago,

while sitting in a field behind the house,

will go to Jocelyn, who understands it was

the first day of my life I saw what I was looking at.”

Clean out the attic,

go through the endless drawers of files,

spend what little time is left to me

in scuttling all the props

on table tops,

and all the evidence of the “getting and the spending

that laid waste my powers”


Must I throw the stack of twenty journal-notebooks

in the trash,

with no mind for the dignity

of the burial of my secrets?

All at once,

answering myself,

I sit tiredly in the emptied room,

cold in the evening light.

I have forgotten to light a fire.

There is no color of a flame.

I am in a large white death.

Go back.

Live with my mistakes.

Leave my clutter.

After I am gone,

when those of you who loved me

walk in this room,

you will find,

to your surprise,

that I’m still here.

— Margaret Freydberg