love life


Not a lot of information exists out there, particularly in English, about the late Bulgarian poet, Danila Stoyanova. Many years ago, floating along in a bubble of seeking out and reading eastern and central European women poets, I stumbled on this moving poem, written when Stoyanova was only 16. She died of leukemia when she was only 23. Prescient perhaps that she wrote about keeping life on par with death.

While, perhaps, the dying person fears death, s/he might treat it with this casual indifference or acceptance. Stoyanova in her poem; or like Margaret Edson in her play “Wit“: “am waiting for the moment when someone asks me this question and I am dead.             I’m a little sorry I’ll miss that.”

Death is surely the mystery that causes all manner of unexpected reactions among the living.

“Grief. Death was not an intellectual conceit. It was an existential black hole, an animal riddle, both problem and solution, and the grief it inspired could not be fixed or bypassed like a faulty relay, but only endured.” -from Before the Fall, Noah Hawley

“One of the main reasons I decided to take the trip was to escape my grief. I thought, as people in adversity are wont to think, that a change of scene would help me escape the pain, as if we did not bear our grief within ourselves.” -from The Encyclopedia of the Dead, Danilo Kiš

And that in-between place where death is coming for someone, and his/her family fights the more powerful forces that death brings to the battle:

“Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knows how to fight for territory that can be won and how to surrender it when it can’t, someone who understands that the damage is greatest if all you do is battle to the bitter end. More often, these days, medicine seems to supply neither Custers nor Lees. We are increasingly the generals who march the soldiers onward, saying all the while, “You let me know when you want to stop.”

But for most patients and their families we are asking too much. They remain riven by doubt and fear and desperation; some are deluded by a fantasy of what medical science can achieve. Our responsibility, in medicine, is to deal with human beings as they are. People die only once. They have no experience to draw on. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come—and escape a warehoused oblivion that few really want.” -from Being Mortal, Atul Gawande

Danila Stoyanova
They say I don’t love life.
That I love the dead tulip not the breathing one,
that I’m in love with the sob and feel only
the laughter of the sarcastic.
That to the sun I prefer the rain and the electric wind,
that in the raging spring I seek out pre-ordained tragedies,
that I take the shroud for something sacred,
that I recognize man only in his animal wisdom,
and that shoving with the mob intoxicates me.

Oddness, or deception?

I only know my funeral
won’t take place
because it’s hard to bury someone
who puts death on par with life
and lives equally in both.

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