DEATH IS ALWAYS LOCAL
Death is always local.
There’s nothing abstract or universal about it.
It might be a big window with a superview of the other side
but death takes away your eyes.
Life might intimately personalize
each and every being
but death dehumanizes their seeing.
Like the Salvation Army major in full uniform
I found hanging by his neck
in a garage I was trying to break into
when I was seven
and two weeks after that
the guy who committed suicide
by jumping from the attic
onto a picket fence
like a piece of meat on a fork.
In a poor neighbourhood
everyone’s a casualty of someone or other
but the way people die
just as much as why
adds to the local colour.
But it isn’t an indifference to death
so much as the impotence to do much about it
that makes people get on with their business
as if it could have just as easily been their turn next
to check out.
Death finds the G-spot
on the gornographic theories of the living
about why they’re still around
and the poor learn earlier than the rich
to get off on the rapture of an anti-climax.
Fucking may be the lyric of the mob
but death is their return to innocence
without a class structure.
Death is Hollywood’s way
of handing out Oscars to the losers
who don’t have anyone to thank for anything.
What can death take from the poor
that could be worth more
than what was taken away long before
by those who have too much to hang onto?
I remember watching my cat die
at the top of my mother’s front stairs
and looking deeply into its eyes
saw the nobility
the real class
in the way it trusted
what was happening to it.
And I wondered how any living thing
could experience death
if they didn’t live through it.
I loved my cat like my affable familiar.
My only companion
every night I went out alone with my telescope
up on Heartbreak Hill
where seven hanged men were said to be buried
to look at the stars and be cleansed by the wonder.
My cat was my spiritual consigliere.
He was smoke and shadow.
And when he died
there was no deathmask
in a mirror of lies
to disguise himself
in the face of the truth.
He met death better than a man.
But I was the boy
that looked into his eyes
to see if life dwindled like a candleflame
back into its wick
like a geni back into its lamp
or if it were dispersed
like a gust of fireflies among the stars.
And I discovered that
life doesn’t take back what it gives.
It just let’s go of it
like a boy with a telescope and a cat.