The dolphin knows precisely when to feed when to bless the day when to swim south feels the pull of the tides.
Each day at noon he walks across the factory floor around lathes, shavings, and up the metal staircase into the small office its windows overlooking the shop floor and pushes the red button mounted on the wall. The whistle peals over town as people glance reflexively at their watches. When asked, he says it is always precisely noon never sooner, never later he is certain, for he checks the clock on the steeple of the ancient church set each Friday by the parson to insure God’s work is promptly done.
Each day at ten before six the parson climbs the ancient wooden steps into the bell tower and staring at his watch, waits until the hands align then leans into the rope as the bell rings out six times then he climbs down and walks across the neatly trimmed lawn to the small white clapboard house that sits on the edge of the cemetery behind the church. It is precisely six he says for each day at noon he sets his watch to the factory whistle.
First appeared in PKA Advocate, No. 9, December 1996
He waited patiently in the queue until, after two and one half hours he approached the battered metal counter. The young, bored woman, chewing at her gum asked the usual question, have you looked hard for work this last week? I stood in many lines, for hours on end in my battered old shoes, that is more work than you can imagine. Each night I would soak my feet for hours in the small sink hoping the swelling would go down. Each morning I would find another line or two, if they moved quickly, but at the end of each they would ask the same question, what skills do you have and I would tell them there are few better than I at standing in lines, and they would sheepishly smile and thank me for my patience and that is why, again this week, I ask that you stamp my book so I can stand in the other line and wait patiently for my check which I can take to the small bodega waiting calmly in line to cash it to buy what canned goods are on sale. Then I will take my cans and carefully line them up on the kitchen counter, and marvel at how patiently they stand in the queue.
There will come a time in the not distant future when words will be rendered unnecessary, when thought will be freely transmissible, when distance will become a lost dimension. That day will be one of mourning, much as we mourned the death of the Underwood Champion, joined in death with the Royal Standard and a Smith Corona, and cursed IBM and Microsoft. And yet we poets will carry on, for we have always written because we have no other marketable skill.
You could feel the tears embedded in the email “We didn’t know she had only three years.” She is 84 and failing in so many small ways that the prognosis comes with great pain, but barely shock save for its delivery. So we cherish the remaining days and cast the estimate aside.
We greet as long lost friends, having never before met save sharing a place a decade apart. I strive to cling to what was there in that place, she, fueled by the frustration, has turned away just because of it. I go home to my words, she to her art, and we know our paths will cross again.
Today was downright exhausting, and my hour long walk along the river left me dripping and drooping. It wasn’t different than most days, same time, same place, and the usual 756 miles, according to my old friend Orion, who was watching from his usual perch, unseen, as he prefers it by day. When I was done, I started to complain about how I felt, when Orion interjected, “Just be thankful you’re not in Florida today, its hotter by far, and your usual walk would have covered a full 930 miles today, and there you’d have reason perhaps to complain just a bit.” Heading home to shower, I called out to Orion, “You know you are one heavenly pain in the ass.” “Yeah,” he replied, “that’s what Artemis said.”
It is far less a matter of space for we have that in profusion if mostly always beyond reach, but unnecessary anyway given our pervasive fear of being alone while always trying to define our particular uniqueness. The universe has a vastness we can never hope to grasp and so we turn inward, where space is constrained, and we can imagine impenetrable borders that exist solely within the mind. But the dimension that gives rise to fear and loathing is time, for it despite its vastness, is always finite and always, in our deluded eyes shrinking as the universe expands, and we know there is a point when time becomes a deathly singularity.