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Timothy Bradford

It’s happened, again. The bugaboo of illness, ingenuous little
death machine on my shoulders, in my spine and latissimus
dorsi muscles—no, deeper, fourth layer, spinalis dorsi, page 343
of Gray’s Anatomy—in the groin. I run on. I’m nowhere near dying
but the fatigue runs through me all day like a road through Kansas,
and the cold air leaks into my poorly heated car, numbs my hands
and feet. Weariness follows, and the infinite ache, like something
Neruda would say. So I’m trying to abide with illness, feel it
as the little death it is, the link no one wants to speak of.
Parents never tell their children illness is death’s half-sister,
and abiding with her, welcoming even, would be good practice.

A poem should be this: Little Instruction Manual for Things.
"Death: A woman was dying and went to a teacher. 'My doctor
has given me only a few months to live. Can you help me?'
The teacher laughed. 'You see. We are. All dying. It’s only.
A matter of time. Some of us. Sooner than others.'
Accepting death, the woman took a practice and was
healed, or dead, it didn’t matter then." Or: “Plumbing: The pipe
should not come in contact with lime mortar or lime concrete
as the pipes can be affected by lime. When
the pipes are embedded in walls or floors, they should be
covered with Hessian cloth dipped in coal Tar/Japan Black.”
Or instructions for your own coup d’état. Honey, where
is that lovely terza rima on tile cutting?

But most poets, like parents, remain practical. Hot drinks,
rest and vitamin C. A stanza or two in The New Yorker. More
reasonable, I see. Especially when there’s no belief in an afterlife
or rebirth. But few claim that completely. If so, more people
would say, “Die, it’s no big deal. Every body does it.” And few
say this. So I’m practicing today, trying to be patient with the pain
and nausea, thinking of the suffering of others and how
much of it I cause with a lack of attendance to their pains
and illnesses, even absent when saying goodbye, goodbye,
and the anger with my sons at times. (Other vices; I shouldn’t
bore the reader with the assorted sordid details.) This practice
seems easy when home alone in front of the TV, or in the study
with my lonely, aching bones and the typewriter’s skeletal keys.

But the erasure of illness reveals me.

Timothy Bradford

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