Ultimatum

March 29, 2014

How often had she breathed her last,
only to discover it was not her last breath at all?
Was it to be the penultimate one then?
Or even the antepenultimate breath?

Or worse, to find out it’s to be
the ultimate breath all right,
but in an infinite series of breaths,
for breathing never stops now, does it?

You just change places,
switch up to some higher breath,
something to sing, or maybe just to listen to,
tap your feet, give birth to—

Ah, yes, the ultimate breath
you take is in bed, isn’t it? And you’ve
been counting it all wrong—
3, 2, 1 does not end in death.

No, not at all.

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3 Responses to “Ultimatum”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    I’m not actually that brooding and pessimistic a person—in person. But it’s true, a lot of my poems come out that way. I was really just playing around with the ‘–ultimate’ words. [By the way, I have seen ‘antepenultimate’ used exactly once. A philosophy professor reviewing a book by J. N. Mothanty concluded ‘the penultimate paragraph…argues such and such, however the antepenultimate paragraph argues thus and so.’ Is there a ‘preantepunulmate’?]. ‘Infinite’ and ‘ultimate’ rather clash, don’t they?
    Anna, my original version read 1, 2, 3—but after all we’re counting backwards.
    Glade you liked the poem.

  2. Anna Mark Says:

    This is a beautiful poem. I have read it many times. The countdown at the end is very striking, I keep wanting to change it to 1, 2, 3…birth. It strikes many chords with me.

  3. Thomas Davis Says:

    Hmmm, a poem so steeped in hope and life that it absolutely sings? Did ExtraSimilie write this? A delightful poem that has just enough perversity in it to make you wonder if you should laugh or not?
    I have known older people who always thought they were at the point of taking their last breath and then discovered that they had the will to go on and on.
    Maybe “an infinite series of breaths,
    for breathing never stops now, does it?”
    Maybe
    “You just change places,
    switch up to some higher breath,
    something to sing, or maybe just to listen to,
    tap your feet, give birth to—”
    Are we all creators to the extent that we can reach into a massive star incubator in darkest, coldest space and spark life into a sun? Or is that Son? Is God truly inside of us?
    “Ah, yes, the ultimate breath
    you take is in bed, isn’t it? And you’ve
    been counting it all wrong—
    3, 2, 1 does not end in death.

    No, not at all.”
    I suspect I can sleep on this ending, Jim, and not worry about it so much.


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