Mortality Lesson No. 1



It has taken you some time now to try to decide

if it is proper to tell your boy—in all the sunny brightness

of your days of play, of rough and tumble—

that we all expire someday. Is there sense, for instance,

in explaining death when he has just

discovered counting, biking, fishing, or the movements of queens,

rooks, knights, bishops? (Does chess imitate life,

he might ask, or does life imitate chess?) And to think

that you’ve just told him not to sacrifice a king for a pawn.

It’s like Jesus presaging a crucifixion after healing the blind

or in the middle of a feast: “Great banquet, Zaccheus.

Right, men?” In the shuffle he says, “Please pass

the kebab, here’s the sourdough. And by the way,

I’ll be murdered the week after next.”

Maybe you can begin with the late family dog,

protohuman in his loyalty and need for attention.

At least Bingo lived to forty human years. But the fact

that our lifetimes will only be two-digit numbers

at any rate is a pretty bad proposition to begin with.

Unless you believe in pet heaven.


[February 2008]


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