“working on dying” (Poem, 5/11/07) Doc. #011

The story of this painting is way cuter than the story you’re about to read.

The Text:

working on dying

Written May 11, 2007 (Age 20)

if we were born to die
then let us not waste time
chasing dead presidents around carousels
throwing concerts in our heads
staring down JPEGs and
dancing with the door closed

if we were born to die
then let us not waste time
making martyrs out of murderers
playing solitaire in squares
compiling texts and
holding up the good will store

if we were born to die
then let us not waste time
questioning why the river runs
searching out scapegoats
clipping out coupons and
scrubbing out silk

if we were born to die
then let us not waste time
quoting past prophets of past problems
hording processed water stocks
injecting botox and
burning down witches

if we were born to die
then let us not waste time
lamenting the burdens of being right
smashing atoms into fire
crying out unfair and
worrying over bald spots

if we were born to die
then let us not waste time
crunching our abdomens into metals
hanging up blood red tape
offering excuses and
talking into our hands

if we were born to die
then let us live not waste time

let us live


“working on dying” is a carpe-diem poem with a unique rhythm and memorable use of repetition. Unique images are created through the blending of well-known words and phrases with newly established techno-jargon. It is a quick tour of the digitally enhanced lives we live.

One notices the lack of capitalization and punctuation, and is left wondering whether there is meaning to be found in the choice or if the author was simply lazy.

Overall, a quality poem with passion and heart. Grade: A


I was digging through the Regression Archive when I stumbled upon this poem and felt compelled to share it immediately. Seize the day, no?

Early 2007 was a good time for my poetry writing. I was working with a poet whose work I respected (though found a bit too heady) and I was letting go of bad poetry habits I had picked up through self-teaching. I apparently also let go of capitalization and punctuation, which to my more mature eyes just seems lazy, and potentially just ripping off e.e. cummings for the sake of ripping of e.e. cummings.

At the time, I thought my life from day to day was pretty sweet. I was still shook up by the fact that I hadn’t been admitted into student teaching (see Document #0008: “Leadbelly’s Other Lesson” for details) but I was partying hard every weekend with literary nerds and my sex life was the ideal of every male undergrad.

I had been sleeping with this girl Paine for a several months in a “friends with benefits” or “f*** buddies” arrangement; basically, we invented “Netflix and Chill” back when Netflix worked via the mail. We were hooking up almost every day and it was SOOOOO NICE not to have to deal with all the drama a committed relationship entailed. Before Paine, I had been in two long-term relationships spanning six years, and there was plenty of emotional drama in both. How refreshing it was then, to hear Paine say, “I gotta get going,” as she searched the floor for her missing bra.

With whatever incredible 20-year-old energy I had left over after my time with Paine, I was hooking up with other girls too. Not like, A LOT of girls, but a handful. I remember one particular day, I had just finished “chilling” with Paine, when an hour later, another “friend” Amanda came over hoping to see my DVD too. I showed her the extended cut. She rated it 4.5 stars.

Was I a pimp master? Yes, clearly. Is this story about to end badly for me? Most assuredly. Should you use protection when sleeping with someone even if they’re on birth control? ****ing probably.

It could have been a lot worse. It could have been something scary, something deadly, but I was lucky enough to only contract HPV. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a good strain, Paine ended up needing serious treatment. She confronted me, loudly, in the middle of the campus cafeteria. I did not handle it well, was worried only about myself, about the health and safety of my genitals. Later that day, I told her I didn’t want to “chill” anymore with her. She took that even worse than the diagnosis, screamed at me that I was a lousy lover (she wasn’t wrong), told me to go **** myself.

I didn’t have sex for a while after that.

I make it seem like I bailed on her just because she had potentially given me HPV (in reality, who knows who gave what to who). While it certainly made my decision easier, I had already been considering ending our arrangement. The novelty of the casual sex had worn off, and now I was just sleeping with someone I didn’t really care about. I wanted a real relationship again, feelings and drama and everything.

What makes me feel like even more of an ***hole is that later, much later, I considered the possibility that Paine did have romantic feelings for me. That in her mind, we were in a relationship, and that she was giving me as much emotionally as she felt was appropriate given the way I treated her. Maybe instead of being an average “beneficial friend,” I was in fact, just a terrible boyfriend! It’s hard to say, Paine stopped talking to me after that.

Paine was the last person I slept with that I wasn’t romantically interested in. The bar for what that meant wasn’t terribly high at that point, but I at least had to think it was possible we could end up married if I was going to sleep with you. No more wasting time “chilling” with girls I didn’t want to “hang” with and “love” on. I had been converted to relationships!

Now, a relationship might only last three weeks, but that’s still a relationship, damnit!

Anyway, I hope you liked something here, and if you did, please click one of those SHARE buttons below! Thanks for reading!

~Sean L

2 thoughts on ““working on dying” (Poem, 5/11/07) Doc. #011

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