James wrote a lot about death. In fact the whole first section of his book, Packing Up for Paradise discusses that issue, reflections on life and old-age in poetic turns phrases that speculate, dabble, wonder.
Here are three of those poems.
HAVING COME THIS FAR
I’ve been through what my through was to be
I did what I could and couldn’t
I was never sure how I would get there
I nourished an ardor for thresholds
for stepping stones and for ladders
I discovered detour and ditch
I swam in the high tides of greed
I built sandcastles to house my dreams
I survived the sunburns of love
No longer do I hunt for targets
I’ve climbed all the summits I need to
and I’ve eaten my share of lotus
Now I give praise and thanks
for what could not be avoided
and for every foolhardy choice
I cherish my wounds and their cures
and the sweet enervations of bliss
My book is an open life
I wave goodbye to the absolutes
and send my regards to infinity
I’d rather be blithe than correct
Until something transcendent turns up
I plash in my poetry puddle
and try to keep God amused.
SOLACES OF SENECTITUDE
Every morning I say hello to my whimseys
and scrub the scum of learning off my mind.
What can mental discipline guarantee me now?
I no longer need to be smartass or do the right thing.
I don’t understand the world and never expect to.
Having outgrown embarrassment about my failings
I simply attend to the needs of my perversity
and let my instincts run as riot as they can.
When I go out wool-gathering I swathe myself
in whatever golden fleece has the snuggest fit.
On the whole I enjoy being harmoniously digalingy.
It gives me time to practice my essence.
OPEN TO QUESTION
In a cool neck of the woods
a long walk from the village
I hide out from grunge and glitz
and pray for a tidy apocalypse.
Nothing much on my mind but
Love, God, and Hereafter.
Though time is closing down
my life is still open to
whatever comes next
or whatever comes last.
With a shortening longevity
I need to consider last resorts.
A houseboat on the Styx?
A villa in Elysium?
A bedroll in the Void?
The forest darkens around me.
Where is my inevitable home?
Is that the ultimate surprise?
See also our post on The Poetic Death of Visionary James Broughton which includes two other poems and a video about James Broughton’s actual spectacular death. And for more on how James Broughton viewed death, and another poem check out our BIG JOY THEMES page.