On the Deaths of Those We Do Not Know
The spirit of truth bears another name which is even more revealing;
it is also the spirit of fidelity, and I am more and more convinced that
what this spirit demands of us is an explicit refusal, a definite negation
of death. (Gabriel Marcel)
Woke thinking of the motley the technicians and nurses now wear
and how it is likely one will be given over to them sooner or later,
the calliope of the ICU, the ringmaster on the PA, all idiotic anxiety.
Go back to school the morning paper more or less advises, a man
your age can look forward to twenty point five years average life
expectancy, as if an average life were what one sought, the fisherman
in Tikrit who held his fish aloft to the gunship, shouting "Fish! Fish!"
was mowed down for his trouble when he bent to still the engine,
his family receiving a multi-colored cardboard chit, his life worth
a thousand dollars, courtesy of the US Army. Now Vonnegut gone
none of your business, none of it, no matter what the emailed obituary
or the son who for years toted the books around in their carnival colors
as his father and uncles had before. The newspaper is full of news
the ants still busy upon the counter near the toaster and cutting board
before you rub down the formica in chemical warfare. There should be
angels, evident ones, monstrous creatures whose mutant shoulders bloom
with scruffy wings stained at their ends like the fingers of the man reading
the morning paper, smelly things who cannot be exterminated or ignored
swaggering in stained robes along the sidewalks and dripping with bling,
bullies of pure being, ghastly reminders how that we differ from them
and our commonality with smaller orders of winged life, drab of wrens
forlorn sparrows constantly on guard as they pick among cinders.
Elsewhere in the edition color photos of men who have begun families
at an advanced age looking lovingly on their pretty pre-teen daughters,
they hope, they say, to live long enough to walk them down the aisle;
who dare gainsay them? who summon the circus cortege out of season?