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Short Talk on the Withness of the Body

Lawrence Schwartzwald/Splash News/Corbis


I find my seat on the train, stow my bag, sit, wait. Windows black, underground tunnel. A big red-haired man comes down the aisle. Big red beard, red plaid shirt, tight barrel chest. He enters the toilet, shuts the door. Train business continues, aisle traffic, baggage, reading lights, announcements about smoking and luncheon. But a sound is beginning to be heard. Like a clown screaming – wild loops, he must be jumping, throwing back his head – or an animal cornered, losing all hope. Muffled at first then louder, jabbing through the wall. People start to look around. By now he is screaming whole sentence-patterns, words not intelligible, some refrains. Is it a child? People are debating. Try the door, does it lock from inside? Did you see him go in, he looked disabled didn’t he? Where’s the porter? Long bleated paragraphs of his life on the other planet are now falling on us, the thin wall fairly billowing. It is hard to read. I get up, go down the aisle, open the door. Just a crack, lights on in there, sound of paper rustling, no sobs. I close the door and return to my place. Regular train noise. A few moments later the toilet door opens. He passes back along the aisle, unrolling his sleeves, beaming, saying hello to this or that person.


What departs at death is 19 grams (= 7/8 ounce) of you shedding a soft blue light. What remains behind is various. Within a year of the passing of Emily Dickinson’s dog Carlo (1848-1866) there were 5 other Carlos in Amherst and 2 in novels. Some centuries later workers digging the Athens metro unearthed the grave of a dog, small paws still folded, collar studded witha row of blue beads. Use a distant brush to paint thesethings. Do not redip.


Look what a thousand-blue- thousand-white-thousand-blue thousand-white-thousand-blue thousand-white-thousand-blue wind today and my two arms blowing down the road!