TERMINAL

Birth, he said, is the first and only real terminal disease. You only realize that, of course, when it is far too late and there is nothing at all you can do about it. Cancer and all manner of diseases merely shift the timeline, but once you’re on the path, there is only one way off, and that is a step few are willing to take. For some, this is a source of terror, for others it is no more than a slow walk around the block, with the promise you’ll eventually arrive back at the place you began, although it is no longer the place you began but one from which you begin, not again but anew. Again. This is what the Buddha said 3000 years ago, more or less. He confirmed that the just the other day, outside the soup kitchen. “Hey,” Buddha said, “even the once or twice enlightened need to eat from time to time. Join me?”

CLOCKING

I never expected this, he said. It came from out of nowhere. None of us predicted it. It’s a sort of thing that happens elsewhere, but not here, at least that was our assumption. We certainly never wanted it to come to this. But come it did, and so we accepted it. We learned to like the placidity of its face. We were lost for a while but our lives returned to their normal pace, the rhythms of the day overwhelmed us, and our lives went on. We never bothered to fashion a new year. We were satisfied with perfection twice each day.

CUSHION

He sits on the cushion
staring through hooded eyes
at the wall in front of him.
He expects exactly nothing to happen,
expects there to be no sound
within his mind, only what
happens without, expects that time
will cease for him, or
will at least cease to matter.
He is not disappointed.
The bell rings, he arises,
and walks back into the world
where everything happens,
there is only sound, and
he stares at his watch knowing
time has moved on in ways
he can never hope to fully grasp.

ETA

I can assure you I will be there
one week from the date I
was supposed to arrive, not a day
sooner and only possibly a day later.
If, by any strange chance I am not
please feel free to contact me
immediately at the number
I have not given you and won’t.
And if you cannot remember when
I was supposed to arrive, that is
perhaps because I have never told you,
but rest assured I will do so
immediately upon my arrival.

CHECKOUT LINE

Time seems frozen in the checkout line
stuck between the Mars bars
and the tabloids, you wonder
how Liz could survive a total body
liposuction, and further details of how
OJ killed in a moment of lust.
The old woman in front rummages
in her change purse certain she has
the eighty-seven cents, the coins
lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair.
Two aisles over the young mother
her jaw clenched in frustration
keeps putting the life savers back
on the shelf as her child, fidgeting
in the cart grabs another roll, until
she shouts and slaps his hand.
His cry draws stares from all and she
stares at the floor as he grabs
a Three Musketeers and Certs.
A man in the express line swears
that the apples were marked 89 cents
and wants to see the manager
who calmly explains that Granny Smiths
are a dollar twenty-nine and only small
Macintoshes are on sale this week.
He puts the bag on the scale
and stalks out of the store.
I would shift to the express lane
but I have 16 items and must
continue to wait and wonder
how many incisions it would take
for a full body liposuction.


First Appeared in Kimera, Vol. 3, No.2, Winter 1998.

AGING GRACELESSLY

To know the road ahead
ask those coming back.
— Chinese Proverb

I have progressed to the point
that I no longer mark time
in neat segments based on rotation
of this world about that, now I am
measured against those around me, I
seek those with whom I share an age.
It is best to walk at noon, although
the sun is hottest then, for my shadow
draws inward, less exposed, but
it slowly creeps outward as the sun retreats.
I am of an age with the sun, I see myself
reflected in my children, who call
in the night as I have fled
into my sanctuary, away from yapping dogs.
My sons were, just days ago, standing
jaws clenched, before the batting tees,
they would throw down the bat
in disgust after a swing as the ball
toppled slowly to the ground, now one
sits in his cramped office just out of sight
of the river and mulls that moment
of time before there was time, the other
finds structure in the randomness of thought.
I am of an age with that moment
of time before time
I am of an age with that random thought.


First Appeared in Alembic, Winter, 1999-2000.