Apologia Pro Vita Sua 


When I’m dead and scattered, 

say I didn’t video class reunions,

hoard photos or hang on

to drafts of all my poems. Say

I was present as the present fell

away from itself: I found a good

used Stanley plane today,

bought groceries . . . . And already

I’m down to the etceteras,

so quick the present, like a comet

that sheds its disappearing tail,


like gingkoes that all at once

go soft at the stems, and the leaves

separate and blanket the ground.

Say I was a good composter,

that I raked that yellow shining

into armfuls for the black bin

in whose moist, wormy dirt

the future lies, and dropped it in.


John Palen was born in 1942 in Southwest Missouri. His Open Communion: New and Selected Poems was published by Mayapple Press in 2005. Since then he has had chapbooks published by March Street Press and Pudding House, and poetry, fiction and memoir appearing or forthcoming in Sleet, Prick of the Spindle, Gulf Stream, Citron Review, Upstreet, Elder Mountain, The Chaffin Journal and other publications. He lives in Central Illinois.