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 Read Bio Author Discusses Poems
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