“How do you know it’s not him?”

on

“You mean—frequently and for a long time?”

“He thinks I’m in a coma, and he’s sending flowers.”

“He loves you.”

“I don’t love him.”

“You care about him.”

“I can’t—let go, but I have to give it a chance.”

“And if he doesn’t? If he can’t let go?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Do you want me to say more?”

“No, no. There’s nothing I need to say.”

“What if he won’t let you go?”

“That’s not a yes or a no,” I argue, but I already know the answer.

I’ve always enjoyed sitting with my friends. The conversations, the laughter,
the good times. And I can’t imagine not sitting with them.

But I’ve never shared my life’s secrets. I have always tried to put my life
into words. I have read about and written about my life’s journey. I know the
little details. I have felt them. I have been through them. I have done them.

I could share the “secret” of my death. But that might be too much for some,
and the “secret” would be the worst secret.

And then I am back at my original question—to which my friend responds, “How
do you know it’s not him?”

I smile at her and answer, “I still don’t know.”

***

There is a man sitting in a bookstore in a faraway land. He is reading, and
he is not reading fiction. He is reading poetry.

This man has written a book of poems. He has earned a doctorate in psychology
and has published several scholarly articles, but this is his first poetry,
his only poetry. He is not expecting his work to be widely published. He doesn’t
expect him to be very well-reviewed. He doesn’t expect the public to respond to
this work.

He has written three poems and is tired of writing. He is trying to find
another way to say what he needs to say. He writes about his mother, but he
doesn’t think she’ll like what he writes. She is dead, after all, and he might
disrespect her. He wants to write of his father, but he doesn’t know how
to say what he needs to say. There are so many things he wants to say, so many
things he wants to do, so many things he wants to say, so many things to say.

But he doesn’t know how to say any of it. He doesn’t even know if there is
a way to do any of it.

He stands and looks out the window. The man walks along the sidewalk,
holding his book of poems against his chest with one hand, but he is unable to
read it. He can’t read one word of the poems he has written. The man is trying
to read on, but he is unable to hear what the poems say. He has read poems for
his entire life—languages of poetry, of meaning. What he sees from his window
is a different world than the one he has read about. It doesn’t make sense to
him—at least not yet.

“Maybe it’s not a poem. Maybe it’s a book report.”

The man has never written a book report. He always hated writing them—he hated
doing them. He hates writing that’s not a poem. A poem is something you do,
something you make. A poem is something you are. A poem is something you do
in silence, in words that you don’t quite know. A poem is something you can’t
hear.

The man has never known silence. He has been a soldier, he has been a
teacher, he has been a father. He has been a husband. He has been a teacher,
and he has been a husband. He has been a son, he has been a father, and he has
been a teacher. He has been a doctor and a man.

He writes poetry because he will never be anything—a son, father, husband,
teacher, doctor. He writes because he wants to say something to the world. He
wants his mother to hear him. He wants to make his father hear him. He wants
to make his students hear him. He wants his patients to hear him. He wants to
make his wife hear him. He wants to make his brothers hear him. He wants to
make his friends hear him. He wants to make his readers hear him.

He wants his mother to want to hear him. He wants to write a book of poems
about his mother, and the poems are not about the mother. The poems are about
the mother she is gone. The poems are about the mother he’ll never have.

He has never wanted to write a book report. He has always wanted to be a
poet—to write poems about his experiences as a poet, as a teacher, as a
husband, as a father. He has always thought he could write poems about his
mother, but until today he has never written poems about his mother.

What happened to him, he wonders, has happened to the other men in this
bookstore. They have written books of poems about their experiences as fathers,
as husbands, as students, as doctors. But it is not as if he is a teacher, nor
has he ever been a husband. He hasn’t even been a father. He has always been a
doctor and a husband.

He feels sorry for these men who are reading poetry about themselves. They
write poems about their experiences as poets, as teachers, as husbands, as
students, as doctors. How are they going to finish them?

He has always been a good reader. He used to read books in English, philosophy,
politics, religion, philosophy, and poetry. He read literature from the Greeks
to the present—the philosophers, the novelists, the poets. He read a book every
week—usually about twenty pages—about the world or about a particular problem
or about a particular writer or a particular philosophy. He used to read about
everything he didn’t know. He used to read everything.

He used to read a book every week about the world or about a particular problem
or about a particular writer. He lived with this book every day—the book he was
reading in the morning, the book he was reading in the afternoon, the book he
was going to read at night.

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