Laura Dunn’s Antiphon

The last year before her body was done on earth,
in the study she looked big-eyed, hollowed cheeked,
flashing hands, finger pointed saying, “I hate the pity
worse than the cancer eating at me, hate the way they ‘tsk’ and say
“What a shame, oh Laura,” they drawl, instant tears starting,
smarting their tepid stares. While at that instant thinking
“Whew Laura, I’m glad it’s you, not me. I’m not ready to go.
She surely didn’t do something I do.”

“Death. They see death, not me. Me grasping at the little life left,
recklessly riding that last wave on a long board soaring steady, like me
when I was all alive, leaning into the curl. Life furled, billowed then,
like a full jib seizing wind. I captured it with a camera click, oil painted it,
collected, caught life, squeezed colors out of, into every living thing around me.
I woke to ocean waves breaking and slept seventeen years close to a bear
man yet all the while yearned for some unseen silken warmth.
I lusted for learning these last years of my life; found a quieting,
an acceptance of me and an eerie serenity in death’s coming.”

“Now, knowing the date of death, this edict with no repeal, makes me
see, I’ve done most of the things that stirred passion in me. I’m ready,
not willing but ready, to let this diseased body cease to be. You know
what though? I hurt worse when I know I’m already dead to so many
who stand right in front of me. Death, mocking me in the eyes of former
friends fearing their certain mortality, ancient loves repulsed by me,
they avoid me saying selfishly, “I don’t want to remember her that way.”

“Death, looking belligerently at me, damn, before I am even done!”
She seethed with life-longing, railed with live anger, locked eyes.
“Ah shit!” she said exasperated, breaking into a grin,
“Ah shit, I’d say the same thing if it wasn’t me.”


Photo of Laura Dunn. Credits to Lynn Skapyak Harlin.

Lynn Skapyak Harlin is a poet who made a living selling her words as a freelance writer, photographer, and newspaper reporter and correspondent. Her first published poem “War Waste” appeared in Time magazine, in 1970. Her work has appeared in Street Review, Arbus magazine, Section Eight Magazine, Florida Speaks, Aquarian,, A.C. PAPA and many others. Her two chap books, Real Women Drive Trucks and Press One for More Options were published in 1997 by Closet Books. She is an editor and leads the Shantyboat Writers Workshop on the Trout River.  

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2 thoughts on “Laura Dunn’s Antiphon

  1. The beauty of this poem –and its stark reality –hits you when you’ve either been there yourself, or you’re living with that person.
    Lynn captures it perfectly. I love it. Oh Shit! I really love it a lot.

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