You ask me what terrifies me,
What coats my heart in lead,
Dragging it down to the depths
Of a bottomless abyss.
I tell you it is dying,
And I see on your face an understanding,
An expression of having heard that answer before,
Betraying a smugness of having successfully read my mind.
I take a breath, indicating there is more
And I see your expression falter,
What could possibly be worse than death?
What could be worse than being a lifeless corpse,
A still heart buried under the decaying earth.
What could be worse than being an unknown speck of ash,
Floating through cities that my living eyes never beheld.
I take a deep breath and I tell you that my greatest fear is dying,
An empty canvas.
I wish to die a work of art,
Not a pristine parchment left untouched for the fear that it may tear.
I want you to see engraved in my skin valleys,
The mountains that I faced and subsequently climbed.
I want my back to display a diorama,
Of the azure blue oceans that cooled my skin
After a day of burning under the tropical sun.
I want my veins to be a map,
Tracing out the roads I took to collect my shattered fragments,
Winding paths not taken by too many,
Passing through misty forests that breathe magic and mystery.
I want my knotted hands to cup the starry skies,
That my eyes feasted upon night after night,
A hazy moon casting her spell upon lovers that may never meet.
Ancient light travelling fathoms,
To tell me there is life in the darkest corners of the universe.
The wrinkles around my eyes when I smile,
Should reflect the souls that have connected with mine,
The ones I have loved, who may have loved me back.
I want my shoulders to be weighed down by gravity alone,
And not by unspoken ghosts that whisper curses in the night.
I want every broken bone to tell a story,
Perhaps of bravery, or even foolhardiness,
I would rather be a fool than be nothing at all.
My fading hair should weave a blanket,
That covers my shivering frame surrounded by shimmering ice,
A gentle breeze lifting every strand,
Playing a broken tune that somehow comes together,
To orchestrate an otherworldly symphony.
I want every fibre of my being to blind you,
Make your heart race faster as I tell you stories you shall never hear,
Of heightened breaths and broken hearts,
Of happy tears and unhappy laughter,
Of wispy clouds and piercing rain,
Of reddened cheeks and dreamless sleep.
I take a breath and I see your confusion,
What is it that terrifies me then, your eyes seem to ask,
I tell you that it is dying,
Without having lived.

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8 thoughts on “Thanatophobia

  1. Forgive me if you are already familiar with the work of Ernest Becker.
    As I read this poem, I was thinking to myself that it could pass for something he wrote.

    For example:

    “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human
    animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of
    human activity—designed largely to avoid the
    fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in
    some way that it is the final destiny. . . . Of all
    things that move man, one of the principal ones is
    his terror of death.”

    “The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”

    “To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.”

    Notice a resemblance?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on ideabox.me and commented:
    This lovely poem titled ‘Thanatophobia’ sounds a lot like the voice of Generative Death Anxiety.

    “The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”

    “To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.”

    -Ernest Becker

    Liked by 1 person

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