Those brief moments before the end
in which you find yourself the oldest person in the world
due to your proximity to death
as opposed to any accumulation of years
are happening all of the time.
For instance, these past seven seconds
have been monumentally important for someone
somewhere, but pretty much the same
for the rest of us. Perhaps you noticed
that quiet flicker of joy you felt just now
at being included in “the rest of us,”
but this really should serve as a reminder
that, yes, your time will come
and that there is a commitment on my part
to maintaining a certain level of awareness
regarding your impending demise
which could occur while I’m mowing
the lawn, or buying an avocado, or, god forbid,
looking at myself naked in the mirror.
The other morning I decided to start
practicing this underutilized skill,
of remaining fully cognizant of the expiration
of a life on this planet every 4.1 seconds,
but I have to admit that by about nine
I was exhausted by the compression of all those lives
pressing down onto their final moments
like granite grinding down onto a grain of sand.
That this plan of action first came to me
as I walked a dusty trail rimming a canyon
and encountered a pair of grasshoppers
amorously linked on a mound of coyote scat
probably means something,
and the fact that as we walked
my young son was avidly explaining
that we’d been warriors together in the time before,
he with his rifle, me with my trident,
probably means something as well.
If this sudden awareness was sent
as a harbinger and you’re reading this now,
after the date of my expiration, perhaps
these words possess a resonance
that will put both my children through school.
But if I’m still here, and you’re listening
as I read this in a voice that is never as good
as the one I hear inside my head
and you’re thinking: Oh. Well. He’s still alive.
Then clearly the meaning is going to have to come
from somewhere else and you need
to get to work on this, on making some connections:
the grasshoppers, the trident, the coyote pile
above that canyon that took so long to carve:
the disparate points are all there,
just draw the lines of the constellation
and when darkness falls, maybe,
we’ll have a chance to navigate our way out of this place.
—from Rattle #29, Summer 2008