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The Library of Congress > Poetry & Literature > Poet Laureate Projects > Poetry for the Mind's Joy > Winning Poem: LIFE
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This poem was submitted for the "Poetry for the Mind's Joy" project and is reproduced here with permission from the author. All rights reserved. Poetry for the Mind's Joy is Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's project that includes a community college poetry contest administered by the Community College Humanities Association and a lively videoconference.

What exactly is life? Is it not God’s waiting room for death? You are born into this mere existence called “life” not knowing that your only purpose of being is to die. You live your life in a reality that man has created while death sits and awaits patiently for you. For if you knew your exact time and date you would have no hope, no desire, and no happiness; you would live in fear, despair and mental entrapment.

You die, they gather. They mourn, then scatter. The wails and cries of a mother torn in two are unbearable. Like a child the father screams and pours out his soul over one he will see nevermore.
“Don’t be sad, be strong” they say,  “for the pain will pass as the day is gone.” Be strong?! How can this be when there is no return for who is gone?
The dark sunglasses hide the fear and the tears of those around, but there is no hiding from what has longed to come.

The innocence of the children left behind shields them from the pain. For once they grow old it will too be their time to blame. So as the candle wastes away under the picture, and its flame waves its final farewell, the question still remains . . .

Heaven or Hell?

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