I thought, before they cut her phone off,
I might leave a last message.
One for the ether: one that not a soul
Would ever hear. “Goodbye, old girl.
I wish you well.”
It grieves me that she fades. I am dismayed
That nothing can be done – now she has gone
Where all our roads converge; or rather,
Where they entrail themselves.
There you find the foetid knot
That poisons all our purposes,
Debasing them, rendering them baseless,
Making a cruelty of our consciousness.
There’s no nobility to old age. There is no self at all.
No heroism, surely, amongst those who are dying:
Heroics imply choice, not helplessness.
Instead, declining life is a quest for salvage
Against inevitable shipwreck: doing what can be
Done, saving what can be saved, before one founders.
They know, of course. The dying choose their words
To please us, then they doze. Whose bedside manner
Is that? The dying are there for us: writing off debts
That we cannot repay, words it is too late for us to say,
Absorbing our composure, our denial, and the lies of our
Upright, grown-up lives – in gentler, distant eyes.
I didn’t make my call. I knew it was in vain,
But that’s not vanity. It was, maybe, my fear
Of (if engineers checked the line, and found me on it)
Making a fool of myself (for so my petty suburbanite’s
Shame forced me to reason) but, worse:
What if the number were already dead
Giving me the infinite rebuttal of a numb tone?
Look at the set of a dead face.
Its muscles smoothed, its profile young again.
They say repose has brought it peace, but
That’s not so. Listen, and sense instead
The silence of oblivion, the null of longest night,
The sigh of stars, like candles, going out.
Apparently I’m not the only son (or daughter) who’s ached to make a phone call to a person who has just died. “Closure”, they call it. But little in life is ever really closed, just scabbed over.