Sunday, February 08, 2009

Poetry Reprise: "Requiem for John Updike"

Just Stepping Out

I was thinking again about John Updike's poem on his own death and decided to try my hand at a response . . . of sorts. Here's the original by Updike:
It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
"Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise -- depths unplumbable!"

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
"I thought he died a while ago."

For life's a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.
Now for my belated, predated response:
It struck me wrong to hear you say,
Were you to die (you did today),
No one would think you still so full
Of promised depths unplumbable.

Did any shrug with tearless eyes,
At putative past-due demise?
The wide response, I think I know,
Was hope you didn't really go.

Because your life and work are huge,
Your death is more the subterfuge.
Thus, enter in the register:
"Not here." That's best I can concur.
I've slipped in a subtle reference to Frost's poem on death, for I think that Updike put one into his "Requiem," as I suggested in my original post.

Maybe this clumsy attempt of mine can move others to post more graceful responses online to "Requiem" and thereby prove to Updike -- assuming he still cares -- that there has been no collective shrug at his demise.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home