Looking on the Bright Side

By John Brehm

Featured Art: Nocturne by James McNeill Whistler

Death: at least it’ll give me a chance to catch
up on my sleep. No more tossing and turning
worrying about what’s going to happen next.
Unless of course my dreams of dancing girls
and hookah parties come true.

In which case it’ll give me a chance
to catch up on all the fun I missed
being too tired from lack of sleep. A
win-win situation.
Unless of course the dancing girls turn out to be
my former lovers, flitting before me
with vengeful or disdainful expressions
on their still painfully lovely faces.
In which case I can go on writing the poems
of failed love that failed to make me famous
when I was alive.
A suitable way to while away eternity.
Unless of course the hookahs are filled
not with tobacco but with heavenly peyote,
(food of the gods the gods left for us)
in which case it’ll give me a chance
to catch up on the deathless
bliss of boundless mystical oneness
my fear of death always kept me
from fully experiencing
here and now.


John Brehm is the author of three books of poetry, most recently No Day at the Beach, and a volume of essays, The Dharma of Poetry. He’s the editor of The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy and the associate editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Originally appeared in NOR 14.

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