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Questions for Reflection: “Simplify Me When I’m Dead” by Keith Douglas

Remember me when I am deadand simplify me when I’m dead.  As the processes of earthstrip off the color of the skin:take the brown hair and blue eye  and leave me simpler than at birth,when hairless I came howling inas the moon entered the cold sky.  Of my skeleton perhaps,so stripped, a learned man will … Continued

Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I’m dead. 

As the processes of earth
strip off the color of the skin:
take the brown hair and blue eye 

and leave me simpler than at birth,
when hairless I came howling in
as the moon entered the cold sky. 

Of my skeleton perhaps,
so stripped, a learned man will say
“He was of such a type and intelligence,” no more. 

Thus when in a year collapse
particular memories, you may
deduce, from the long pain I bore 

the opinions I held, who was my foe
and what I left, even my appearance
but incidents will be no guide.

Time’s wrong-way telescope will show
a minute man ten years hence
and by distance simplified.

Through that lens see if I seem
substance or nothing: of the world
deserving mention or charitable oblivion, 

not by momentary spleen
or love into decision hurled,
leisurely arrive at an opinion. 

Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I’m dead.

Questions for Reflection: “Simplify Me When I’m Dead” by Keith Douglas

  1. What does it mean to simplify someone when they die?  What is the usual inclination about remembering those who have died?
  2. Why would someone want others to forget all the particulars about them?  Consider what Douglas mentions in the poem.
  3. Do you feel that Douglas may have felt differently about remembrance if he had not addressed the subject of death during a time of war?  If so, why?
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