Many great poems have been written by poets contemplating their deaths. I think first of W.S. Merwin’s “For the Anniversary of My Death” and John Keats’ spooky piece that begins “This living hand, now warm and capable” and Marie Howe’s poems about her brother’s death from HIV/AIDS and Lucille Clifton’s untitled poem that famously ends, “come celebrate / with me that everyday / something has tried to kill me / and has failed.”

What I love about this week’s poem is its fresh approach to this giant question we can’t – as humans and poets – leave alone. On the one hand, this poem never answers the question it asks in its opening lines. On the other, both the poem’s title and its mundane series of images – a garbage truck, rats, a “maudlin song” – promise that it’s likely that there will not be any great epiphany at the end or any famous last words.

Some may find that thought depressing; I find it oddly comforting. I find in it an invitation to find what’s sacred within each hour we have whatever that hour contains.

Keith Dunlap lives in Portland. His first book, Storyland, came out last year from Hip Pocket Press.

No Moment Any Better Than Another

By Keith Dunlap

What if this was my last,

my final thought? Reaching

for another breath and finding

nothing, stuck behind

an idling garbage truck,

the grease-stained man hopping down

from his perch to leisurely throw

bag after plastic bag

into the ruminant mechanical maw

at that sacred hour of the morning

before the risen sun has seared

the faces of the buildings with its phosphorescent flare

scattering the rodents like fleet shadows,

that moment when the familiar strains

of the maudlin song on commercial radio

almost brings me to tears.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2017 Keith Dunlap. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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