“If I Died Tonight”

A torrential flood of blog posts! Oh unhappy reader! I can’t imagine anyone wants to read an essay in their spare time, but I feel compelled to write at least a while on a poem I once wrote.

"If I Died Tonight"

Inspired by "If I died tonight", a poem by Willow Wisp. 13/10/2006.

If I died tonight,
Would you regret not telling me?

If I vanished tomorrow,
Would you seize today?
If the Reaper got impatient,
Would you stand in his way?

If I died tonight,
Would you regret not hearing me?

If I told you when my funeral was,
Would you believe my lie?
If I told you when it was going to happen,
Would you believe I’d die?

If I died tonight,
Would you regret not knowing me?

Are you too proud to shed a tear
Over my spilt milk?
If my dying wish were to pay respect,
Would you run away and bilk?

If I died tonight,
Would you regret not saving me?

If you had the chance to save me,
How much would you risk to try?
If I gave you the chance to stop me,
Would you still be so shy?

If I died tonight,
Would you regret not killing me?

Because you are.

"If I Died Tonight" is a poem reflecting another. Its topic and style imitated the original poem by Willow Wisp with its own twist: a barrage of accussatory questions directed at an unknown person, assumingly someone the author knows in his personal life. It is possible he intended the questions to be asked to a specific person, the then reader. Like the poem on which it was based, "If I Died Tonight" is a cry for notice and a threnody at neither being seen, heard nor saved.

With the exception of the final line, the poem intersperses two line stanzas with four line stanzas. The two line stanzas share the common traits of asking [the reader] if they would regret not noticing the persona. They start by questioning if [the reader] regrets not telling the author something, then hearing, then knowing, then saving until eventually he states that [the reader] is killing him. The comma which divides the first from second line gives brief reprieve so each question is slightly more isolated. Combined with the break in the number of lines per stanza, it is these questions which stand out the most in the poem, and their repetition creates a driving rhythm of its own mimicking the increasing desperation of the persona.

Stanza two is the first of the four-line stanzas, and opens by questioning whether [the reader] would protect the persona from death if s/he had the chance. This is the ultimate question of the poem repeated in each stanza with different words.

Stanza four is interesting because the persona apparently tells [the reader] a lie. This indicates to me that he has no true intention of dying without being noticed, but as the pleas for attention become more severe he desperately seeks an answer from [the reader].

Stanza six puts a twist on the phrase "crying over spilt milk", usually referring to regretting a loss in the past. For the persona to identify the milk as his turns it into a symbol of his own life and its waste if he should die. He essentially questions whether [the reader] would feel regret at all, or if s/he would "run away and bilk", meaning swindle a way out or evade feeling grief.

To me stanza eight is more of a challenge than a question. Its suicidal implications place direct responsibility on [the reader] and demand to know what s/he would risk, if anything, to save the persona’s life. It is a cry to stop "be[ing] so shy", and when a human life is on the line, whether it is worth the discomfort of reaching out to another person if it means saving their life. To me this implies that the person the poem is directed at (if anyone) has stopped communicating in the author’s time of need.

The final three lines of the poem sum up the lamentation of the persona, and the consequences of being ignored when in need.

The author’s take on Wisp’s poem is a series of confrontational questions asked in desperation to a person who does not seem to notice. "If I Died Tonight" serves as a stark reminder of the importance of human connection- as social creatures, no one being is meant to be alone. The pain of isolation can itself be worse than death for a person to want to end it more than they want to live. The author well conveys the anguish of not being seen and serves to remind us all, as well as the person for which it might have been intended, to slow down enough to care for those around us and be there in their times of need. It might just save a life.


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