The Positive Side

Fall/Winter 2003 

Poetry: Death is for the Dead

Poetry by River Huston

I’m saying it

The world looks and sees what it wants
They have memorials written
They have you wasted and dead skeleton in your bed

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said
To find true happiness, get a terminal illness
and take real good care of your self

real good care pajama parties cookies& milk afternoon naps kinda care

I see angels flying above everyone’s head
I see miracles all day long
in oranges      brown fat crawly bugs
on the big time journey across the towpath
ducks in winter      Ginkgo trees raining yellow
my dog smiling and wagging its tail
to the rhythm of three sweet altos
knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door

Rivers are always miracles
they aren’t stopped by rocks bridges boulders beer bottles
old tires dead bodies or even dead refrigerators
they go around over above under embracing all they touch
they never go back to the beginning to get it right
changing forever seeking accepting expanding being

We have mortal worlds filled with gods
Buddha Christ Vishnu Mohammed and Henry… the hitchhiker’s god
they walk us through to the end
shedding our named coats
our finely pressed out laid out figured out fitted in life suits
no expectations      no more mundane earthly matters
9-5 skull famine      weight loss      facelifts      fashion statements
free to go home      the early release program
do the mambo till dawn      safe sex erotic safe sex
free of judgment guilt and shame
death is for the dead and living is for every one else

Hey I said it
don’t memorialize metaphorize hypnotize categorize or sanitize me
its hard enough living with an illusion   no more definitions of my death
no more sympathetic death sentence eyes
I’m not dead dying   no siree Bob I’m living
just thought I’d let you know

River Huston, 42, is an award-winning poet, author and journalist who was diagnosed with HIV 13 years ago. To read about her whole story, go to