planning for the future

it was a Saturday morning
in January
and a stranger walked up to my hospital bed
introduced himself as Mike
and told me I was dying.

that morning friends came,
Stephen, Simon and Leonard,
to hear the news
and say fuck;
then Andrew arrived
with his laptop
ready for me to play card games all day,
instead he said fuck too.

during that Saturday
painkillers and potassium dripping into my right arm,
while Andrew read Harry Potter beside me,
dosing on and off
I typed lowercase with my left hand
designing my funeral.

no church, no religion
lots of laughing
poems by Alice Walker,
Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni
songs by Cassandra Wilson, Janet Jackson,
Meshell N’degeocello and Oscar Peterson;
my mother is definitely not to attend.

cremate me
don’t send me to the Harris family plot;
Andrew is to scatter my ashes over the Tararuas.

after work was over
for the day
Stephen, Simon, Sally
Suzanne and Marianne
came to see me
and asked
in the awkward way you ask someone who’s dying
what I’d been doing that day.

I told them I’d designed my funeral;
they all went quiet
and looked at the dirty beige hospital lino.

I didn’t die that day
or the day after;
instead Mike cut me open
and saved my life
on Sunday.

but in case it’s ever needed
I’ve kept the funeral plan;
look in C:\My Documents\paula
for a file called songs.doc,
and remember -
no churches.

Paula Harris

Published in JAAM 19
May 2003