The Obituarist Contemplates the Death Desk’s Demands
‘Where was he when he died?’ Blunt questions are
My job, my stock in trade. Before they reach
The crematorium, I’d better know.
For years, I’ve manned the death desk avidly.
And, literally, my day starts off cold,
Not drinking coffee, phoning Mom or Dad.
Instead I ask, ‘Who’s dead?’ Notorious,
Imprisoned, Oscar-winning—that’s the cream.
Untimely dying, homicide combined
With scandals—editors think that’s sublime.
Word counts come next. Regardless of esteem,
Opinions loosely held of the deceased,
Please be assured all lives will measure best
In column inches: your newsworthiness.
You often hear folks say, ‘He cheated death!’
Celebrities get short-changed, too, when fame
Collides with the fatalities of fate.
What’s worse than being upstaged at the end?
Ask Farrah Fawcett. She passed on the day
That Michael Jackson’s shocking end held sway.
Or the demise of Groucho Marx, just when
The nation mourned for Elvis Presley, cut
Down in his prime at 42-years-old.
Or C. S. Lewis, dying unremarked
When JFK was assassinated.
Coincidences help make death unfair.
I write obituaries though I dread
Such masterpieces are not credited.
Yet satisfaction is not limited,
For after death, you will be edited.