Poem – Why Are the Dead So Still (By Fern G. Z. Carr)

Why Are the Dead So Still – By Fern G. Z. Carr


Arms crossed, lying motionless

in an open casket,

he gazes upward through closed eyelids.

Maybe if I look hard enough

I’ll see him flinch or wriggle his nose

at the acrid smell of incense

rising from the censer;

holy water is sprinkled on his body –

it tickles, so why doesn’t he laugh?


Proudly dressed in his finery,

he’s unaware of us as we mill past

to say our final goodbyes;

we stare at his waxen appearance,

wondering when our turn will come

and whisper kind comments to which

we rudely receive no response –

death is a stubborn master,

it compels complete passivity.


We are told that he is at peace,

that he has attained eternal happiness –

not a physical happiness surely,

he can’t even laugh anymore.

When the casket is closed

and he is laid to rest,

he’s unable to breathe a sigh of relief

punctuating a lifetime of pain

because the dead must be still –

that is the rule.

FERN G. Z. CARR is a director of Project Literacy, lawyer, teacher and past president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She is a member of and former Poet-in-Residence for the League of Canadian Poets. Carr composes and translates poetry in five languages while currently learning Mandarin Chinese. A 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee, she has been published extensively world-wide from Finland to the Seychelles. In addition to multiple prizes and awards, honours include being cited as a contributor to the Prakalpana Literary Movement in India; her poetry having been taught at West Virginia University and set to music by a Juno-nominated musician; an online feature in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper; and her poem, “I Am”, chosen by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate as Poem of the Month for Canada. Carr is thrilled to have one of her poems presently orbiting the planet Mars aboard NASA’S MAVEN spacecraft.