As strange as it seems, I can
spend hours in a used bookstore
lost in the marginalia, and textbooks,
particularly those in psych and sociology
are generally the most fertile,
for those students, though they would
never admit it, pursued those fields
hoping to find answers to their own
problems without having to ask.
Yesterday’s visit was particularly fertile,
but it was a college introductory text
in biology that grabbed and held me.
In the margin of a short chapter mentioning
thoracic anatomy was a question
for which I have no possible answer:
Does the diseased heart in the metal
operating room basin curse the body
on the gurney who was supposed
to join it in the ground, and what of the
donor who goes back to the soil
heartless and utterly and eternally alone?
Like most you believe that
if it is worth remembering you will,
that memory is keyed to some measure
of value and if you forget that value
had diminished without your noticing.
You accept this as a sort of gospel truth
for you cannot recall that you once
rejected this argument out of hand,
for that has slipped way from memory
and lies valueless and withering
on the synaptic scrap heap.
You are certain you had a childhood
but just as certain you were thoughtless
until age three when life came rushing
in remarkable fits and starts
bridged by chasms of nothing
though you fear that some memories
may be slipping into the abyss even
as you deny that possibility.
He is for it or he is
against it, and if you could
predict the vacillations you
could develop the means
of measuring the flux of sanity.
You could as easily grasp
the water flowing downriver
and by asking select questions
determine the next heavy rain,
but the odds are good
you will be outside when
the deluge begins, and
only its ultimate weight
and duration remain to be felt.
It all comes down to the same
thing, if you could paint the sky
blue, precisely which shade
of blue would you use and why
that one for heaven’s sake?
As you slowly approach it
it grows perceptibly larger.
This does not surprise you,
for you are familiar with
the principles of physics.
What does surprise you is
that the details grow
ever less clear as you approach,
as though they retreat
under your slow advance.
You think this strange,
wonder what has gone wrong,
question your eyes, and
finally realize that the details
you saw were not there
that it all was, quite simply, what
your mind wished your eyes to see.
He cannot be certain when he lost it. He isn’t even sure where he lost it. He knew he had it, had it for years, and then, once when he looked for it, it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t all that upset at the loss. It was more that it was familiar, that he was accustomed to it, not that it had in intrinsic or extrinsic value. In fact, he had already replaced it the moment he noticed it was missing. Still he couldn’t help but wonder where it had gone, and why he hadn’t noticed its loss at the moment it occurred. Or had he? But ego could be like that, and it was comforting to know the replacements were stacked up and waiting.
The hard part
of death and dying
the giving up
or letting go
This is why
while the dead