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METHODS OF LEAVING

For those who take the holy tomes literally
a golden chariot must appear,
with a Gabriel or Krishna at the reins.
For the modern devout, a silver El-Al jets to some kind of Israel.
The super rich, the A-list crowd, ascend a marble staircase,
leading from ballroom to skylight,
for an invitation-only heavenly soiree.
The desperate find their escape by handholds on a sewer wall,
with the low pitch groan of a cast iron cover scraping aside
allowing sunlight to stream down to their filthy faces.
There are self-doubters who must shinny up a pole,
for one last test of worth.
The space cadets of Roswell, who are never really here,
lower their telescopes and enter the hovering saucer.
They go in peace, and are taken to their leader.
But most of us prefer the warm heavenly light,
and seeing long forgotten faces growing ever closer —
or more simply, a stroll up a sunny lane with the caped skeleton.

Millions leave daily,
their paths like spokes of a wheel, with the earth turning at the center.
Or does the world shed its dead,
like a drenched dog shaking drops from its fur?

Before the heavens ruled there was the underworld.
Caves or fog shrouded lagoons were the comforting exits.
I'd follow that ancient path,
but go even deeper —
and find my guiding light
in the hot orange lava,
where even my soul would melt in the scalding soup
that marks the center beneath our feet.

      — Richard Fein