Memento Mori

Memento Mori
Michael Gollin

Dead —

No longer alive.

The dead —

All the people who once lived.

Remember the dead –

How the living relate to their origin and destiny.

We remember the dead —

A communion with family, friends, colleagues and compatriots.

Do we remember the dead?

A challenge that keeps us centered and humble.

How do we remember the dead?

The way they asked.
Celebrating the lives they led, their work, spouses, children.
Kind words, spiritual practices, grief, graves, and graveyards.
Laughter and forgetting what’s best forgotten.
Stories told, pictures taken.
Transmuting memories into new relationships and shared experience.
Homes built, wealth achieved and heirlooms passed on.
Struggles and troubles survived.
Battles waged, achievements won, institutions that live on.
Good deeds done, works published, songs sung, art displayed and athletic triumphs.
Mementos, monuments, and memorials.
The way they would want.
The way you would want when you are gone.

Bitter End

Bitter End
June 30. 2013
Michael Gollin

The Bitter End is a sweet place to be,
safely moored past the sound –-
Fly to full moon beach party,
ferry to sloop for sleep,
sail to Gorda,
then dinghy to shore
walk up the beach
and sway in a hammock.

Rested, cross the channel to Saba Rock,
island harbored in an island,
tropical space capsule,
circumnavigate barefoot in 10 minutes
if you take your time,
past 1950s Seahorse outboard motors,
cannon and anchor from the wreck of the Rhone
sharing a concrete pool with Moray eels and sea cucumbers,
tarpon gathering to the light at the wharf.

Painkiller in hand, step up to Bermuda grass lawn,
sporting a new deck built since my last time here.
Recline and look Northeast at the wind blowing waves from Spain.
We sailed out there today.
Our big boat was infinitesimal at sea.
Closer hangs my hammock, now empty,
across the water at the Bitter End Yacht Club.

A sailor’s dream.
If this isn’t paradise, well, I can see it from here.

Nothing between my head and infinity,
I lay on deck with my daughter looking up at the stars,
through shrouds and stays, spars, and massive mast
pointing straight up at the Zenith.
My sky app shows where the constellations are,
even if we can’t see them, even beneath the sea.
It knows where we are in time and space. I do too.

The best aquarium in the world is down below.
Just look.
Snorkel above or scuba within.
Garden eels play peekaboo, spotted drum with stripes,
clumsy shaped filefish,
giant hawksbill turtle rises for a breath,
but we don’t have to.
Bluebell tunicates predate vertebrates
black coral looks green to me,
waving with the countless fans.
Swim hard against the current,
and stay low.

I haul myself through the Baths,
natural amusing park.
Commerce can’t top it.
Boulders, tunnels, and pools,
Angly stairs, ramps, and ropes
Sun and shade. sand and rock,
trails past beach gooseberry and grape trees.

The rain chases me off my lounge chair,
into the ocean, not to shelter,
Surprise — I get wet.
Spoiler alert – I get dry.
I swim toward Dead Chest from Deadman cove, alive,
then shower, drip dry in the light rain.
Steady state damp.

Pelican dive bombs the surf and beaks a fish,
seagull swoops onto his back, a thief.
Pelican pecks and gulps, relieved.
But it looks bad for fish and gull.
On Beef Island beach, cute kitty begs scraps, then vicious,
claws down a gull, and torture plays it to death.
Gulls live on the edge.

We each came for different reasons,
Parents, children, and friends,
And the same – we all want to be here,
afloat among islands at sea,
adventure and challenge for fun
together in real not virtual space.

Crickets chirp, birds sing, rooster crows,
moonrise over the island hill,
behind a black cloud,
shines a silver lining,
no gold, no blue sky tonight,
rain with no rainbow.
motor running without sail,
electronic pings.
Gulls cry from the cleated dinghy,
dropping white spots that wash away
like memories.


Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet
Michael Gollin
– Apologies to Monty Python


Undertaker’s calling
“Bring your dead out to the street.”
Old man shouts, defiantly,
”I’m not dead yet!”


I’m walking and I’m talking
and Death is not a threat.
I’ve lived to tell this story
so I’m not dead yet.

Miles to go before I sleep,
I don’t have time to fret,
moving down this winding road,
I’m not dead yet.

The deck is stacked against me
every time I place a bet,
but each hand I win reminds me
that I’m not dead yet.

I try to do more good than bad
and pay off all my debt.
The best is surely coming
‘cause I’m not dead yet.


Our days on earth are numbered
but the number isn’t set.
Every day‘s a miracle when
you’re not dead yet.

I craved your loving kindness
From the moment that we met.
We can hug and kiss forever
When we’re not dead yet.

Live each day until you die,
it’s all that you will get,
make it count forever
when you’re not dead yet.

The evening sky is blazing now,
is this my last sunset?
No! I’ll see tomorrow’s
‘cause I’m not dead yet.


Mark Twain laughed and told the world
the rumors of his death
were exaggerated.
He was not dead yet!

Grasp the truth before you
like the leash that holds a pet:
Death binds our lives together
but we’re not dead yet.

Tyrants think that we’ll give up,
that our freedom we’ll forget,
but we the people never lose
When we’re not dead yet.


One day will be my last no doubt
and when my fate I’ve met,
I’ll recall each time I said
I’m not dead yet!

If we live with grace and courage
and we act without regret,
each choice we make, we prove again
we’re not dead yet.

Our deeds can last forever
for everyone we’ve met —
in memories of all who care,
we’re not dead yet.