Friday, February 23, 2018

Readers Choice Award Contest Poem: “Passing On” by Carol Kner

Editor’s Note:  Nominees for the Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award have been or will be published/reprinted in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review every weekday from February 19 to February 27.  Vote for your favorite in March by sending an email to Editor@SongsOfEretz.com.  The winner will be announced in April and receive a one hundred dollar honorarium.

Passing On
Carol Kner

It is the twenty-fourth of March, the day
when James the First was crowned in 1603,
"On the Line" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
a day remembered for Houdini’s birth
and Jules Verne’s death, a day we choose by chance
without fanfare, or magic, or lament
to sign a final will and testament.

Clients, whose relatively modest worth
will be somewhat reduced by legal fees, 
we have been invited to see to these
transactions in a lofty conference room
where time is told in paper coffee cups
and we can watch a year of seasons come

and go in just an hour: clouds in convoy,
then a swell of blue, then snow squalls, then sun
breaks richly through. A corner of the park
northwest shows trees preparing for rebirth
as we entrust this ponderous paper ark
to guide the business of life after death.

I, above named Testatrix (gaudy word
that paints a temptress in a topless dance),
being of sound mind, sensibly agree
to transfer to my agent or trustee
authority to act on my behalf
whenever the time comes, to be in charge

of everything—my money, real estate,
my goods and chattels, which include my great
grandmother’s gold thimble, the brick wall
in the basement that tends to crumble, the view
from our front porch—a whole array
accounted for. The diabetes gene,

the syncopated heart—they stow away.
We all sign our names on solid lines,
testators and witnesses alike
discussing whether they, when we have gone
to the next world, will have moved on
in this to Madagascar or Maui.

The Styx, where ancient gods swore sacred oaths
is nowhere near, only far away below
the Hudson and beyond, the sea. But here
high on the fortieth floor, we’re up against
the firmament, where They must know just when
the next life starts and whether trumpets blow.

Poet's Notes: My husband and I had been married for more than fifty years when our lawyer suggested that we revise our wills and bring them up to date. While we were waiting to sign them in the large, impersonal conference room of his mid-Manhattan law firm, it occurred to me that though this procedure was important to us, in the vast scheme of things it was a trivial concern.  Not only was it unremarkable compared to historical events and the power of nature, but also, though we approach such rituals with the best intentions, there is in reality little we can control in this world when we are no longer part of it. A process that I might have taken as a matter of course gave rise to a meditation on life's transience.

About the Poet:  Carol Stevens Kner served for many years as managing editor and staff writer at PRINT Magazine. At the age of sixty, she left that publication to pursue her interest in writing poems. Her work has appeared in Western Humanities Review, The Paris Review, Heliotrope, North American Review, and other journals. Several of her poems have been set to music by American composer Christopher Berg and performed in concert in New York City. Toadlily Press published her chapbook “Exposure” in 2010. 

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