Last Rites

They don’t call it that any more,
Now it’s the Sacrament of the Sick –
Which is kind of like Walpole State
High-security prison changing its name
To Cedar Junction. It sounds prettier,
Audio make-up painting over my feelings
About dying. Some people get a good couple
Months of quality life, hard to tell,
A medical opinion serving as a daily
Mirror to my own mortality.

Don’t go to sleep tonight,
You might not wake up

Became my nightly mantras
While meditating in the jellyfish position,
In an exclusive relationship
With seeking peace and praying
That God and I am at least
As cool as the neighbor I never
Smile or wave to, but know they’re there,
Appreciate the beauty of their yard.
I don’t necessarily want to play in that yard,
Just want to look at it, consider it art,
Be grateful for the neighbor I have,
Pray for their children,
Pay them to shovel my snow
And mow my lawn.

You will mow your own lawn soon,
Prune, trim, edge, mow, rake, clean
You’ll be the pretty boy soon

This chorus comes to me like a skipped record.
Somehow I knew I wouldn’t die, not yet.
There was work left to be done.
I would think of Maria, who went holistic,
was told 6 months over 20 years ago.

That will be me some day! That will be me!

I change my diet, go vegan,
Strictly all natural, see what direction
My body then wants to move in, organically.

Forward motion, forward motion
Move a muscle, change a thought
A year and a half later
I wonder if the Sacrament of the Sick
Has expiration dates, though I have
No intentions of renewing before deadline.
Instead I dance like a fool, sing even worse,
Laugh a lot more, and fall in love.

On the day I was put into remission,
I proposed. She said yes to no diamond
Offerings, no gold to band us.
When we married 3 months later,
No one dared ask if we were rushing it.

Previous divorce dissolved the Blood of Christ,
Where I dripped it on myself, staining
A worse shade than original sin, mortal sin.
Instead of a Church and Altar
We had a Minister and the beach,
Daffodils, azaleas, rhododendrons and daylilies,
Much the same of what I eat up these newest days.
All because of divorce, no Priest may marry us.
He may only offer Last Rites.
Excuse me, the Sacrament of the Sick.

But that’s okay, because I am no longer sick.
I am well on my way to wellness,
Already living my afterlife.
You can’t put a timeline on that,
Only a storyline, a plot with purpose,
Or whatever the hell else comes after Last Rites.


Photography © Allison Goldin

Photography © Allison Goldin


José Gouviea is a poet, journalist & poetry radio personality who lives on Cape Cod. He is Poetry Curator at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, author of the Meter Man poetry column for the Barnstable Patriot newspaper in Hyannis, and host of the Poets Corner poetry radio show out of WOMR-FM in Provincetown. José’s reading of this poem was recorded at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Event hosted by Stone Soup Poetry.

Allison Goldin is an artist living in Cambridge. Her work is a collection of spontaneous drawings from the imagination. The most common link throughout her art are the semi-recognizable creatures scattered amongst and bringing together the surrounding doodles. She is currently studying Illustration at The School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Oddball Magazine has published poems by José as well as tributes to him in order to raise awareness of the Joe Gouveia Recovery Fund, an effort to help offset the costs of the poet’s upcoming cancer surgery.