smoke

In high school you smoked a total of about half a pack of cigarettes over the course of a year or so. The point of smoking, every time, was to feel terrible, or, at least, terrible in a different way from the way you already felt. The smoke, which was literally impossible to inhale because for God’s sake, you can’t breathe fire, tasted irresistibly of death.

dusk the temptation of zero as a denominator

It isn’t true that young people don’t understand or believe that they’re going to die. They take stupid risks and experiment with dangerous habits because life doesn’t seem to them particularly precious. They haven’t had it long enough to prize it and besides, for adolescents, life often seems so complicated and difficult that the thought of lying peacefully in the ground with no one bothering them for an indefinite period is an attractive option. Cigarettes give the requisite feeling of unavoidable mortality, the promise that you won’t have to put up with this bullshit indefinitely.

deep autumn
the arsenic
at the apple’s core

Some kids cut themselves to feel the same way but you couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Some kids drink or take drugs but you didn’t want to alter the way your brain worked, you wanted to alter the way everyone else’s brain worked. Some kids take up a regular smoking habit but for you, getting used to it was not the point. The point was to have something that felt especially bad precisely because you were not used to it. The point was to choke and gasp and feel your throat sear and tears come to your eyes and know, for those five minutes, exactly why it was that life felt so unpleasant. The point was not to die, exactly, but to be reassured that dying was possible.

thunderclap
most of me emerges
from a cloud


Prose: here, now
“dusk”: Modern Haiku 43.2
“deep autumn”: A Hundred Gourds 1.1
“thunderclap”: Presence 45

(not quite)

In bed with me: five pillows, six books, three notebooks, two pens, a laptop computer, a cell phone, a complication of wires, a spare sweatshirt, a bag of grapes, an empty cereal bowl, two cloth napkins, my purse, a heating pad, a pile of forms to fill out to placate the insurance company and my employer and the home health provider, one of those claw tools to pick up things you can’t reach, a cat (sometimes two), worry, confusion, longing. 

No, there’s not quite enough room for me.

lossified


prose: here, now
haiku/pwoermd: Frogpond 35.1

back

I write to you from the hospital, where I’m busy being temporarily disabled. My back decided it had had enough of holding up my body, so it went on strike, in very dramatic fashion — an ambulance had to be summoned in the night, to rescue me from the place I’d become trapped after attempting to walk around my house and nearly fainting from pain. The many astute observers in the emergency room astutely observed that I was more or less unable to sit, stand, or walk without screaming. (Cue horror film soundtrack.) So they sent me upstairs to the regular part of the hospital to lie down quietly, though after two days in the hands of the nurses and physical therapists I can in fact walk, using a walker, without screaming but not without sweating and breathing heavily. Then I have to go back to bed for a while, lie on an ice pack, and think about nothing. I’ve become very good at thinking about nothing. I could probably choose to regard this entire incident as a sign that I needed to think about nothing a whole lot more.

You might assume that three days of lying flat on my back would give me plenty of time to write something more interesting than “My back got hurt and I have spent three days lying flat on my back,” but you would be wrong. That is exactly as interesting, at this stage of my temporary disability, as I am prepared to be. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure that soon enough I’ll forget how to think about nothing instead of something.

among the pills they give me a glacial erratic