"The Dash" by Linda Ellis is a poem about living life to the fullest and finding true meaning in life. More literally, it is about the hyphen that separates the birth date and death date on a tombstone.
Within the poem, the speaker recalls a man who gives a eulogy at a funeral. The man mentions the dates that the person was born and died, and he then says that those dates are not as important as the dash in between them.
According the poem, the dash "represents all the time that they spent alive on Earth" and that "what matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash." The dash is a metaphor for the life that humans live. The poem asks the reader to think about his life and whether or not he is living it the way that he wants.
Within the message of the poem, the speaker reminds the reader that life is short and that it can end at any moment. The eighth stanza tells the reader that "this special dash might only last a little while." It then ends with the ninth stanza asking if the reader will be proud of his dash when the time comes for his eulogy to be read. The message of the poem is to not waste any time and to live life to the fullest.