The Dead Zone

Thomas Lynch is one of my all time favorite authors. Before he made it really big he spoke to a book club I was in (not BCMA- we can’t get that organized). He’s written The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, Bodies in Motion and At Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality and a couple other books; he’s winner of the National Book Award and more to the point, he’s a local undertaker. He has been the town mortician in Milford, MI for years at Lynch and Sons funeral home. This is a stone’s throw from Wit’s End and more than once I’ve been tempted to just stop in with some flimsy excuse to talk with him. Maybe future planning or something. His writing style is humane, often funny and always inspired; his use of language consummate. Alan Ball was inspired by Bodies in Motion when he created "Six Feet Under." I especially like that Thomas Lynch was a single dad who raised his children and he uses this piece of his history as fodder for many of his essays.

Yesterday, Thomas Lynch was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Thomas_lynch200

Going the Distance with Katrina’s Dead

All Things Considered, September 14, 2005 · Poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch has been thinking a lot these past couple of weeks about New Orleans and how the dead are precious to those who survive them.
"Wherever our spirits go or don’t, ours is a species that has learned to deal with death — the idea of the thing — by dealing with the dead — the thing itself — in all the flesh and frailty of our human condition," he says.
In response to the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, Lynch wrote a new poem, "Local Heroes," first published on
Local Heroes
Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or weather overwhelms or
The world as we have come to know it turns
Towards the eventual apocalypse
Long prefigured in all the holy books —
The end times of floods and conflagrations
That bring us to the edge of our oblivions.
Still, maybe this is not the end at all,
Nor even the beginning of the end.
Rather, one more in a long list of sorrows,
To be added to the ones thus far endured,
Through what we have come to call our history:
Another in that bitter litany
That we will, if we survive it, have survived.
Lord, send us in our peril, local heroes,
Someone to listen, someone to watch,
Some one to search and wait and keep the careful count
Of the dead and missing, the dead and gone
But not forgotten. Sometimes all that can be done
Is to salvage one sadness from the mass of sadnesses,
To bear one body home, to lay the dead out
Among their people, organize the flowers
And casseroles, write the obits, meet the mourners at the door,
Drive the dark procession down through town
Toll the bell, dig the hole, tend the pyre.
It’s what we do. The daylong news is dire —
Full of true believers and politicos
Old talk of race and blame and photo ops.
But here brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living tending to the dead.
They bring them home, the missing and adrift,
They give them back to let them go again.
Like politics, all funerals are local.

Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Lynch

8 responses to “The Dead Zone

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I will be thinking about it all day. “They give them back to let them go again. Like politics, all funerals are local.” Wow.

  2. Like you say, the man can write.

  3. What a lovely, bittersweet poem. Thanks, Vicki. I’ll be swinging by a bookstore on the way home to see if they have any of his stuff.

  4. Sorry I have been such a poor blog-bud. I have been by to visit, just not to comment! Thanks for the Thomas Lynch info!


  5. Thanks for sharing on one who undoubtedly inspires your fine pennings!

  6. thanks for dropping by my blog earlier. i think i’ve seen you on some other blogs, we have several in common.

  7. What a wonderful poem, so thoughtful and thought provoking.

  8. Wow. Vicki, you need to drop by and talk to this guy. He’d probably love it, and you. And what a blog post!

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