Friday, February 13, 2009

Pain We Obey

Around five o'clock in the morning last night, it occurred to me I was not going to sleep. When I put my head down, it filled and overflowed. When I propped myself up, I coughed. When I stood up, I shivered with cold. When I pulled blankets and covers and quilts over my head to get warm, I grew dizzy with heat. Sleep was not possible, but neither was seriousness. How could I read? My eyes watered, my nose ran, the book shook in my hand. A conundrum.

Poetry answered the need. If I could not sustain a paragraph of prose, but that it came back up unrecognized a minute later, I might take a dose of rhyme, line by line, and thus sustain myself in my weariness, so long as the poem was light, familiar, repeatable.

I May, I Might, I Must

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.

- Marianne Moore

I spent the gray early morning then, in the company of "The Pobble who has no toes," and in the "gently smiling jaws" of the Little Crocodile. I might not laugh, but at least I could smile -- though a hideous, red-eyed, milky-mouthed, runny-nosed grin it must have been, so I avoided mirrors.

My Own Epitaph

Life is a jest, and all things show it;
I thought so once, but now I know it.

- John Gay

I'm sure I dozed, I know I nodded. I am not better now, neither rested nor refreshed, but I am still alive, at least a little, because I listened to Marcel, “Illness is the most heeded of doctors: to goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey.”

I will not stir again today.

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