"Tract" by, Thomas Lynch

PBS has wonderfully posted Thomas Lynch 's essay Tract.  It is a very powerful piece from his book The Undertaking.  I am including a bit of the beginning of it and then giving you the link to the page that contains it all.  Please take the time to get to the bottom of it.  It is - the bottom of it - eventually the place we are all marching toward.

An introductory note from Lynch:

It was written because I really wanted sort of a little coda, something to end the book with properly. And I thought inasmuch as I was writing a book about death, I should at least broach the topic of my own funeral. Even though I began the book by writing that the dead don't care, and I probably wouldn't, I thought, what harm? I'd give them at least some good orderly direction.

So there's this wonderful poem of William Carlos Williams called Tract in which he endeavors to tell his townspeople how to conduct a funeral. It's a gorgeous poem. And I thought, well, I'll give it a go myself. So I stole the title from his poem, and I thought, in the business of stealing, I'd take a couple of his lines. Here they are:

I'd rather it be February. Not that it will matter much to me. Not that I'm a stickler for details. But since you're asking -- February. The month I first became a father, the month my father died. Yes. Better even than November.

I want it cold. I want the gray to inhabit the air like wood does trees: as an essence not a coincidence. And the hope for springtime, gardens, romance, dulled to a stump by the winter in Michigan.

Yes, February. With the cold behind and the cold before you and the darkness stubborn at the edges of the day. And a wind to make the cold more bitter. So that ever after it might be said, "It was a sad old day we did it after all."

And a good frosthold on the ground so that, for nights before it is dug, the sexton will have had to go up and put a fire down, under the hood that fits the space, to soften the topsoil for the backhoe's toothy bucket....

Find the full piece (as well as Tom himself reading the piece) at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/undertaking/undertakers/tract.html

Marina Keegan

...a piece from our staff Friday wrap-up for this week...

Next, I want to thank everyone for the hard work and dedication. I want to remind you to never stop living your own life - your own story - with a conscious awareness that life is precious and oh so mysterious.

I heard a story this week that made me stop for a moment. A young writer had just signed a contract to move to the New Yorker as fiction writer after her Yale graduation. She had had three plays published, some stories, and was awaiting the release of one of her plays off Broadway. 

She was killed in a car accident 5 days after her college graduation.

We see the passing of life from disease on a routine and regular basis. We also know that death is no respecter of persons. As strong and compassionate people who live large in caring for those who are dying, never forget the agenda for your own life. 

Do what it is you are here for, strive to be close to those you love, stand on top of life - not underneath it, don't just seize the day - SEIZE EVERY BREATH. 

The ONE who knows the deep parts of our lives will provide you mercy and grace at every pass (not necessarily comfort and ease).

Thank you, thank you, thank you. And now, a piece from that young writer I spoke of (I will continue to post portions of her work on FB). Don't miss Marina's powerful wordcraft: 

A Poem by Marina:

Bygones -- by Marina Keegan

I had a dream the other night that I was checking my email.

That dream sucks.

And woke to woes of seniors writing

love songs for tomorrow and

Tomorrow and the melodies

That flirt us forward, whispering

the next thing and the next thing

and – so we beat on

birds flocking south until we

circle round and realize maybe

maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.

Maybe we should build a cabin.

Or teach high school.

Or use our hands.

My palms are smooth as words –

Weak with fashion and double spaces.

I want everyone else’s club and job and class

The grass I sleep in always browner than

Than that around erasing dreams

To sit and breathe because you

Only bank for two years then it's over

And twenty two is nothing new

It’s just another chance to build

For when we’re twenty three

And twenty four

And time begins to sell for more than

Any 9 a.m. to never.

We’re not stuck.

That's the thing, we're not stuck. 

We owe no one our nothings.

Yale will be what it was,

Gothic dreams of lucky, of amazing 

Not a staircase or corner office contract.

At home, I walk in forest fields,

Orange light and dry trees,

Becoming slowly sleepy,

And disgusted with my vintage shoes

And the thinness of my skinny pants,

my florals laughed at by the flowers,

whispering, hip. Whispering, there’s no

sidewalk that cares.

But let me tell you, I look cool at parties

And success sufficient to make men fall in love

As we smoke again and open wines

And text to leave because the here is never

Good and I heard that thing on Chapel was fun, well do you wanna leave soon?
Who’s there
Do you wanna leave soon?

I want to bake my blackberry into blackberry pancakes

And live wire-less,

With a husband who runs in the mornings

And lots of books

And a baby who I raise…

To be anything – or nothing

Because that’s okay too.

Because working in a bookstore and having babies

And nothing and being in love is okay too.

Ambition is a choice.

Ambition is a race we chose to run

So we could get here so we could

I don’t know so we could save poor

People or invent something or be in charge.

Last winter I slept in word counts

Face pressed to table tops until the

Snow came and the sun rose

And a man came in to vacuum the floor.

And I’d be tired.

Not just sleepy, but tired.

Tired until all I wanted to do was put on something

Acoustic and romantic and vacuum castle floors.

Why do I feel like I can’t do that?

I’m not sure anymore if I want

To schedule meals and be late

And delegate because that’s what

Good leaders do.

And I’m tired of justifying with tomorrow’s bliss, because

Yesterday’s tomorrow is today and

Someday the sun is going to die

And then the human race will end and

I’ll still be texting to see if that other party’s better.

Do you wanna leave soon?

No, I want enough time to be in love

with everything.

We’re too smart to sell our time

For cocktail moments of

This is what I’ve done

And summers lost for

Three lines on a document

That can’t contain the time

We got high on pancakes

And built a snow fort.

We’re not that young.

We’ve always been young

But now we’re not that young.

And the world is so beautiful.

And this is what we’ve got, you know? This is what we’ve got and we’ll just keep flirting forward, shrinking fonts and grays in love songs to future companies who may decide they want us on their team.

The middle of the universe is here, is tonight,

And everything behind is a sunk cost

Lost in our oceans and our oceans are deep.

So I went to Yale.

So I got good grades.

So we beat on

birds flocking south until we

circle round and realize maybe

maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.

Or the snow comes, and the sun rises, and the vacuum starts,

And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.

Marina's Poem above, in her own voice on youtube:


A piece of her fiction is here:


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