. . . I thought of arsenic, to quell the knowing.

Then I thought that carbon monoxide would do just as well.

Ask my sister.  No, really.  Ask her . . .

Her skin was cherry pink, when too late they had found her . . .

 

What is this, that we call life?

 

For a while, eh, for a while . . . I wake. I sleep. I live.

A cracked mirror, reflecting two offsets of the same face,

From two different angles simultaneously.  It was a quarrel that broke that mirror.

How many angles are there?  How many?

 

(They who can, play at being dangerous.

Except that they are dangerous.  They maim. They frighten.

They traumatize children.  Destroy people without number.

What is this, that we call life?)

 

I remember, once upon a time, being afraid of dying.

I was young.  I was but a child. The boarder, who rented our basement,

When away for the weekend, would let me watch his color T.V.

It was the late sixties.  America, from south of the border, was broadcasting

In the open light of day, its rape and murder of Vietnam — I now know.

I was absolutely stunned by the brutality.  I was horrified.  I was a child of less than ten.

And no one seemed to care.  How nobody cared.

And no one could save them.  No one could save me.

Not my father.  Not my mother.  No one.

I was desolate enough for a lifetime.  Truly, I was a waste.

 

What is this, that we call life?

 

Well it is autumn, isn’t it?  I love autumn.  I love the scarlet of the maples,

The yellow of the aspens, the smell of pungent spruce resin upon my fingers.

I love the moon in October, heavy on the horizon, like tonight,

Rising slow after sunset, casting shadows deep in the still and quiet woods . . .

 

That, I remember:  we pause in our labor, to catch our breath,

Panting steam in the brisk air.  I catch the moon reflected from the unmoving,

Unblinking eye of the stag we are dragging, matter of fact.  I cast

A glance at my partner, at my son of fifteen, the moon also glimmering in his eye.

I love him as he stands there, in that moment, before me.

I wondered what he was thinking,

What he was feeling just then.  I did not ask.  I did not need to.

I was seeing myself at fifteen, quite certain that he was really myself.

I was both pleased and sad at the same time.

I wondered if he knew I could not save him,

Since I could not even save myself.  Of course he knew.

We all do long before we are ever fifteen.

I could not save him, no more than I could have my sister.

 

The moon is rising.  Over there, in the East, from where it rises, ‘an operation.’

Leaflets have been dropped over Mosul.  “Hush, now children,

That is merely the sound of thunder announcing rain,” mothers

Have been kindly advised to whisper in the ears of their children.

 

You cannot save them, but you can keep their spirits up.

 

What is this, that we call life?

 

I think of something like arsenic, to quell the knowing,

But carbon monoxide will do just as well or better . . .