William Trowbridge

Last Words
September 6, 2013 Trowbridge William

Last Words


If only for those you leave behind,

don’t be forced to cram and get cut short,

like poor Max Baer, who noted, “Here

I go,” or Poncho Villa, pleading “Don’t let it

end like this. Tell them I said something.”

Ibsen, hearing friends outside his room

agree that he seemed much better,

had only time to sit up and announce,

“On the contrary!” then drop dead.


Beware the blindside, or you may depart

like William Barton Rogers, stopped midway

through his commencement speech at

“bituminous coal” or Dylan Thomas,

telling his White Horse Tavern buddies,

“I’ve had eighteen straight whiskeys.

I think that’s the record” or Union General

John Sedgwick, confident, “They couldn’t

hit an elephant at this distance.”


If you favor wit, you’re up against pros

like Heine, who said, as worried friends

pressed around, “God will forgive me:

It’s his metier.” Voltaire, when asked by priests

to forswear Satan, countered, “This is no time

to make new enemies.” The grand Pavlova

quipped, “Get my swan costume ready.”


If high sentence is your choice, there’s always

John Q. Adams’ “This is the last of earth.

I am content.” or, in certain situations,

Nathan Hale’s “ I regret I have but one life

to give to my country,” though some say

he followed up with, “Let me rephrase that.”


Or perhaps you’d simply like to underscore

the world’s injustice, like Thomas Grasso,

who strangled one aged victim with her

Christmas lights, and said, about his last meal:

“I didn’t get my Spaghetti-Os. I got spaghetti.

I want the press to know that.”

William Trowbridge’s ninth poetry collection, Call Me Fool, was published by Red Hen Press in the fall of 2022.  He is a mentor in the University of Nebraska Omaha Low-residency MFA in Writing Program and was Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2012 to 2016. For more information, see his web site williamtrowbridge.net.