Matters of Life and Death


In our fast-paced modern world powered by busy lives we just skim over everything, racing breathlessly from one day to the next until we drop dead. What happens then? no doubt we have all wondered at some point. Larry Buttrose reflects on this in his poem Eternity (Selected Poems, BryshaWilson Press, 2017).
Like life itself the poem is brief. In a startling embrace of mortality the opening lines ruminate:

When I die I shall miss the taste
Of that first sip of tea in the morning,
Assuming of course that there is no tea,
Nor, for that matter, any morning.

And so the poem ponders the unknowable from the boundaries of our senses and the physical world we inhabit but all the time the poet’s mind is scrambling over into the unfathomable that we call eternity.

Such juxtapositions are not all that Eternity offers. There is also the paradox of the minutiae of the mundane looming so large in our existence but seeming so small when we consider it in light of the overarching finality of death. After all, our daily lives are strung along by soothing palliatives and disturbing annoyances.

So, while the poet will miss the taste of tea, extrapolating further along these lines, he declares:

One thing I shall not miss
Will be other people’s music
Which translates directly as other people,
Though unlike the tea and the morning
They may well be there,
The whole rowdy crowd of them,

Just as we do, day in day out, the poet braces himself for the worst:

In which case I would have to learn
To love them all, which might take a while,
So it is fortunate indeed that this time
For that there will be an eternity.

Death is one of the recurring subjects of Selected Poems by Larry Buttrose. The wittiness of Eternity contrasts starkly with the heartbreaking exposition, in Sister, of the circumstances and effects of the death of a newborn on her family. In Toast, bleak humour shrouds the reminiscence of the poet’s deceased parents, turning it into a meditation on life’s journey to death:

It is said that oxygen is odourless
But surely only to our human noses
As we sniff our way from post to post,
Ashes to ashes, toast to toast.

The seeming immortality of ants is considered in The Ants, while the fickleness of random circumstantial deathblows underlies the death of a moth in Curtains:

We are like gods to the flies,
The moths and the butterflies,
We kill them for sport and recreation,
Out of boredom, out of fear,
In our blithe damnation.

Larry Buttrose’s poems have much to say about our “blithe damnation”—blithe in both its literary and more commonly used meanings. They give us pause to think and to feel about matters of life and death, important and trivial, big and small and, let’s not forget, cats, too. More in future posts...

Selected Poems by Larry Buttrose (BryshaWilson press, 2017) is available as a print book exclusively from our website ($14.99 includes p&p) or as an ebook from Amazon and Kobo ($8.99).