A Poem by Walker Storz

The Western Book of the Dead

Came to
in a van,
in a Walmart parking lot.

My eyes covered,
some glowing haze
still seeping through.

Visions come more gently now.

A car radio is blasting
maybe thirty feet away.

Even in the sound
there is space
and void—

space to breathe,
though not to heal.


I have only had a brief respite
between the pain and nightmares,

so if there’s a moment here
I want to think
of dying.

I have been dying already
minute after minute

in the silences between
the crushing
of the selves.

When my will splits
into a chorus, and in each measure,
voices fall silent and give way
to new singers—

—lost in the maelstrom

dying and being reborn
between the
pages of a book
flapping . . .

You would think that all of this dying
would prepare me for the greater death.

But no, it’s only confusion
leaving shrapnel of nihils
in me
that scar and inflame nerves
distorting the rhythms of the body.


I am becoming
an animal—
or less.

I am not resilient
like the desert foxes
or lizards
near here.

I am a certain type of
whimpering beast,
starved and thirsty, unable to look
what is coming in the eye.


I have been dying over and over
in hotel rooms,
in campgrounds,
and curled in the fetal position
in the hot air of the minivan
I am sleeping in.

I have been dying
like an American—
scared of it,
avoiding it
until it has almost passed.

Not with grace—
to make room for
a louder, faster,
cruder version
of this world:

light, sound, rage.

Dying without lesson.


And the greater
(one type of death)
happened long ago.

Still, I refuse to look back and see
what I shed.
And the carrion feasting on it.

I am terrified
of what I have become.

Not the death of death,
as old men should die,
but a body exemplifying
the death
of youth.

This death of vitality
we have all accustomed ourselves to.


I have not been this scared
for a long time,
even since the hospital.

I fear mostly
the death of the part of myself
which can play,

the death of love
and the quick march
of industrial time.


I fear the greater death
of all that is too late.

Me, I feel
an executioner’s sword,
and I know someone is dying
in time,
but not who.

I have become
a suitcase
of bones
that grind
against each other.
I am a burden
in traveling,

passed around
from person
to person,

an obligation,
a debt,
but nothing more.

If I died
a long time ago.
What remains:

Walker Storz is a musician, artist, and writer whose work covers the themes of faith, suffering, and illness. Additional information is available at his website, Walkerstorz.com.

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