Monday, November 14, 2022

Precision at the Far Edge

You would want to be the part,
The larger part, the almost,
All-but everything portion

That will never have to leave—
The matter and energy,
The information you passed,

But you’re you. You’re memories.
Take away those memories,
All of them, curses and songs,

And you’re gone. You learned this first
In nursing homes, long ago,
As a churchy teenager

Piously volunteering
To visit the elderly,
Who were said to be lonely.

Some of them were. Some of them
Were lonely for themselves, lost
Beyond all recall. Angry.

And some were just about gone.
Through the mingled stinks—cleansers,
Urine, nonspecific rots—

You perceived the range of things,
From those on the precipice
Still clinging to any branch,

A visit from young strangers,
Opportunities to chat,
To be asked, to remember

Someone who you used to be,
Through the wildly disordered
And desperately confused,

To the fully vacant, blanks,
Only breathing. You could see
Everyone went by degrees.

Souls couldn’t ascend like ghosts,
They degraded like old snow,
Like the break-up of the ice.

Heaven would have to collect
And keep small vapors labeled
For future reassembly.

No, you thought. It made no sense.
And so much could still function
As grotesquely living flesh,

And then at the end the corpse,
Heavy, solid as physics,
Ordinary chemistry.

You saw then what was going,
How it went, the way it built
In the first place. Memories.

Last to go, curses and songs.
An early death’s a cheat code
Of sorts, an illusionist.

It suggests one can leave whole,
Which seems dark, but leaves the hope
There was a whole soul to go,

In which case, it went somewhere,
A unit somewhere extant,
Still precise at the edges.

But it didn’t. It doesn’t.
You won’t. You’ve come to being
In an obsessive cosmos

That tests and saves everything,
Every result and wavelength,
Except you, except meaning.

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