…a friend told me I had to read a collection of poetry called What the Living Do. It’s an extraordinary cycle of poems, published in 1998, by the American poet Marie Howe, related to the illness and death of a younger brother from AIDS.
One of the poems is called “My Dead Friends.”
MY DEAD FRIENDS
I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question
to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.
Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?
They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,
to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy’s ashes were—
it’s green in there, a green vase,
and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy’s already gone through the frightening door,
whatever he says I’ll do.