Closing out this quiet round of winter record-keeping, the present offering follows “So Many Angels” and “Between the Ivy and the Big Rhododendron.” I wonder what the old cemetery looks like now, and if it remembers me. A crazy question, I guess. Of course it does.
When I Stand
When I stand, I marvel at the almost-feeling where my appendix used to be. It’s as if its ancient forgotten function is still in silent operation, or willing to be. The faint dimple of a scar left behind after its removal some thirty-odd years ago is like a baker’s thumbprint in oven-ready dough. It reminds me of our family doctor and surgeon, who liked to study his patients over his half-lens reading glasses, waiting to see if they understood the humor that permeated his being and which rose to the surface in the subtlest ways. Quite simply, you had to be alert. You had to be ready. You had to realize that the gurgling sounds in your innards meant that the entire universe is predicated on humor, even as its foundation is musical, and its fleeting nature is represented by wings. And when he passed by our house in the country in a hearse on his way to the little Adventist cemetery at the corner of Road 64 and Avenue 408, where dust prevails and coyotes howl, we removed our hats and said he was the best doctor the town ever had. Dead at sixty-six after a clean life, a man who knew us inside and out, and who said my father’s gall bladder was beyond his surgical ability, meaning my father himself. Well, you see now why I marvel, and how. Ripe and ready to go, I could just as well have been dead at the age of twenty-six. As I’ve said often since then, I’m living on borrowed time. Half-joking, of course, but completely serious too, because each and every one of us can go out like a light this very instant. And I must say, that is one of the things I love best about this life, this grand poetic recycling experiment, this almost, not quite, surely it can’t be, but must, because it is and it isn’t, all at once. And in the cemetery there is a thumbprint, if you know what I mean, and we’re all in the oven. When I sit? that’s another story.
Recently Banned Literature, December 8, 2016
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