May 29, 2008
By Kathleen Zheng, Alameda, CA

At death’s silent beckoning, I slung a shovel over my shoulder
Trudging down the slow winding path from my house
While the moon languished overhead
Its pale opal gaze fixated upon me curiously
The sky’s smooth mixture of stained navy ink
Lit up by handfuls of stars tossed in for effect
The swirling autumn wind chilled my joints
I ruthlessly stomped on desiccated leaves with my sneakers,
Mercilessly crushing their fragile skeletons,
Relishing their helpless crunch
As I continued onwards along the road
On a mission to dig my own grave

Arriving at the local cemetery
I stepped into a patch of wilting flowers
And halted by a gnarled old tree that stiffly ignored
The road kill carelessly tossed at its feet
A pitiful feline carcass, it was
The empty stillness comforted senses
More used to heated arguments, disparaging remarks
Suffocating from the morass of complicated emotions
Though tonight, it would be over and done with
Once I dug my own grave

Carefully positioning my shovel upright
The weight of its importance heavy in my hands
I swiftly drove the sharp metal point into the ground
And it let out a muffled hiss of pain
As I punctured, pierced, and perforated its flat surface
Pushing into the dirt and flinging out the cold damp crumbs of earth
In a methodic pace that settled into me
Every stab translated into the release of pent-up anger
Pulsing further down into the deepening hole like electric shocks
A sinking feeling seeped through my skin
Like an internal rush of murky water
Subjugating my senses after I surrendered

To muted sounds of mourning crickets and lamenting owls,
I relentlessly worked until the building lactic acid
In my arms threatened to burst out
And I would lay there in an unrecognizable, viscous mess
But nothing ever came easily in life -- not even death, I thought
So I did not stop, and I did not explode

Then the hole got deeper, narrower
Ten more digs and it was deeper still
Upturned soil stood in brown mounds around me
Naked, exposed, and uncomfortable
Thrust out into cold open air
The old oak’s looming bare branches fanned outwards
Like a haphazard splatter of opaque black paint
Against the darker canvas of midnight sky
A strikingly image of twisting limbs
Stretching towards the moon gazing askance

I paused to admire my laborious handiwork
Excavated with my new shovel
And to examine my blistering palm
Realizing I was leaving nothing behind
But death, pain, sorrow, and barrenness
I inhaled rhythmically, and envisioned myself
Merging into the nothingness of the night
Fusing piecemeal with it until I disappeared

My mission was finally complete

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