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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 15, 2017.
About this Poem 

“There has never been a period of my life when I believed in God or an afterlife, and I have wanted for so long to write about this from a sublime position. It would be a mistake to say that I am without awe simply because I lack a God—the lack thereof, the terrible beauty and bizarre majesty of now, that is what keeps me here when the world turns black. Our insistence is up to us, and we must praise our survival, that our presence is a singular and brief force.”
—Natalie Eilbert

Afterlife

There is no life after death. Why
              should there be. What on

earth would have us believe this.
              Heaven is not the American

highway, blackened chicken alfredo
              from Applebee’s nor the

clown sundae from Friendly’s. Our
              life, this is the afterdeath,

when we blink open, peeled and
              ready to ache. Years ago

my aunt banged on the steering, she
              insisted there had to be a

God, a heaven. We were on our
              way to a wedding. I would

have to sit at the same table as the
              man who saw no heaven

in me. Today I am thinking about
              Mozart, of all people, who

died at 35 mysteriously, perhaps of
              strep. What a strange cloth

it is to live. But that we came from
              death and return to it, made

different by form, shaped again back
              into anti–, anti–. On my run,

I think of Jack Gilbert, who said we
              must insist while there is still

time, but insist toward what. Why we
              must fill the void with light—

isn’t that our human insistence? But
              we drift into a distance of

distance until proximity fails, our
              name lifts away with any

future concerns, the past a flattened
              coin that cannot spin. I am

matter spun from death’s wool—and
              I bewilder the itch, I who am

I am just so happy to go.

Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Natalie Eilbert

Natalie Eilbert

Natalie Eilbert is the author of Indictus, forthcoming in January 2018 from Noemi Press and Swan Feast (Coconut Books, 2015)

by this poet

poem

As a girl I made my calves into little drinking elephants,
I would stare at the wonder of their pumping muscles,
the sup of their leg-trunks. I resuscitated a bunny once
from my cat’s electric teeth. I was on neighborhood watch
to save animals, as many as I could. My damage was easy.
My