R.M. Engelhardt at WordFest 2019 - Readings Against the End of the World, April 12, UAlbany, Albany, NY

The Half-Dead Poet Review: Stuff or What We Leave Behind

Time is the school in which we learn
Time is the fire in which we burn.

~ Delmore Schwartz


Out there beyond the subject of poetry recently I was asked if I had a Will, a last testement or legal document so to speak. But over the years to be honest I hadn’t really thought about it. Now in my late fifties I may have many things in my house in order but never truly thought about the idea that if something happens to me who gets what and what gets lost. Or for that matter what happens after we die. No. These aren’t exactly happy thoughts or a subject which we like to talk about or confront but it is at some point necessary to take care of. Once upon a time I had nothing but a younger version of myself and no money, no wife and less responsibilities. But when you are young who really thinks about such things like the final act ? Death.



These thoughts first started for me here & there a few years ago when like most people I started having physical ailments and recently a reminder of that mortality hit me when I in passing started thinking about the loss of a few friends, area poets several years ago. One’s passing already now exactly seven years ago. Paul Weinman was a hilarious and inventive underground poet. He was one of a kind. A unique man whose past work can now be found on the internet and in some videos, journals & zines. He was a regular at poetry open mics as well and his presentation was unforgettable. His poetry moniker was ” White Boy” and his work leaned towards anarchy & punk even though he was from the 1960s era. The Times Union Newspaper even did a write up about him which you can find online also. I also have several friends who are cancer survivors and this also like I said, makes you think. The reallity of this world, our lives can sometimes be a real bitch. We live and work hard all our lives for a decent salary & benefits, pay our bills and try to provide for our children and their own futures. But again? What do we leave behind besides “stuff’? Property and things, book collections and photographs. These things casually cross my mind whenever I see an Estate Sale sign or go to the Goodwill and see large collections of someone’s once beloved things. Pottery, china and even old clothes. You can tell that they all belonged to the same human being because of the similarities. It’s a bit disturbing to think that this is all we are made of. Memories, stuff and a headstone. And somehow I believe that there has to be more. We leave behind friendships, love and if you’re a writer or an artist ? Creativity and words. Words & music. And hopefully a memory, a legacy of our creative selves that endures and perhaps inspires others that makes their own lives more beautiful and complete. And in a way? That’s a poetry of it’s own making. One voice or life which touches many. What do we leave behind? That depends upon what you choose to. My twenty some odd collections of the books I’ve wrote are in libraries and archives. And someday most likely will end up on someone’s shelf who in life that I never met. That’s a nice thought. Maybe that’s even enough to inspire me to write a few more and host events that bring more people together who might one-day be hosting events of their own. Poets are merely made of words. We aren’t rich and we aren’t all famous. But if it’s one thing that I learned in these almost 60 some years of existence is that it’s the very essence of our own mortality that makes us writers and human beings in the first place. Someone once said we are born into the fire of our own time. So don’t just leave everyone a Will. Leave them the fire and hand them the torch as well. Leave them the voice of who you are, were and what you believed in and the beliefs which you fought for. Poet or not. The fight for humanity is an ever after ongoing fight . We all want a better world for our families, children and those who follow. And in the end that’s all we can really strive for. Let some teenager find a book of your poems or the music that you once made. Let them find that painting you created and be inspired. That’s the most you can truly ask for. That and a good seat on the bus to the afterlife if you believe in one. The AARP has some great deals on funeral arrangements.



In my final Will I’m leaving my rare collection of 10,000 coats to Mary Panza and the Jim Morrisonesqe leather pants that I wore in my twenties to Thom Francis.