Matthew Landrum is the author of “Advice to a Friend,” our poem of the week. He lives in Ann Arbor where he teaches writing and literature at a high school for students with Asperger’s syndrome. His poems and translations are forthcoming in Modern Poetry in Translation, Nimrod, and Memoir Journal. “Advice to a Friend” was originally published in Vol. 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.
ADVICE TO A FRIEND
for B.E. Jenkins
By Matthew Landrum
Try to time your death with a good sale on flowers
to spare your loved ones expense in arranging a funeral.
Expire in the heyday of chrysanthemums or at the peak
of lilac time. Die when tulips are bursting
through the loamy soil of spring, still wet with snowmelt,
or when bluebells turn the woodland floor
into a shimmering sea. And if you can’t die, try to live
with dignity and poise. Drink moscato but never alone
and only after dinner. Buy flashy accessories
to set off the clothes of a limited wardrobe: blouses
and pants that show in the seat the wear of drab days spent
hunched before a flickering screen. Compliment others
for panache and gumption, qualities you admire. Use good words
like panache and gumption. Step on cracks in sidewalk.
Tempt fate. But avoid trampling any plants growing there -
flower or thistle – they have worked so hard
to exist. Notice the lines at bus-stops, passersby on streets,
the boats of small souls that pitch and yaw about the city.
This is your kingdom while you have breath
and your wits about you: plastic bags crucified on hedgethorns,
a hogtied pair of converse all-stars looped skillfully
over a telephone line, the rain of leaves from gutters
when the wind blows high. Praise these commonalities
of life, a life that would go on without you, from blossom
to bare branch, the hands of time oozing crimson sunsets
in late July or August, skin scathed from grasping
at the manicured rosebuds in a good year for roses.