The Great Slowing
When my good friend died
at the age of eighty-eight, I knew
that I would miss him and his terrible silence,
but it took me many months
to realize that I would also miss the nursing home
where he had lived.
Now I know.
I miss the long halls of lives,
cataloged like books in a library:
Histories, Tragedies, Folklore,
I miss the weathered ancient gentle faces,
the quiet and the crazy and the incontinent.
I miss the smell of disinfectant and urine.
I love to be among the very old,
because I know that I will never belong
to that delicious club. I fear
that I have already gained
too much momentum and will not be able
to coast the last six-hundred yards to death's door,
but will smash into it with ferocious speed,
splintering it from its hinges and
passing through to the other side,
scattering the lobby furniture like mobile homes
in a tornadoed trailer park, penetrating
the back wall of the reception area with such force
that my atoms and those of the wall
will forge some new and unstable element.
Only then will I come to rest.
How I envy those
who have approached that great slowing with
grace and foresight, consciously moving slower
as their objective came into view, began
to grow from a speck on the horizon
into some recognizable form. It is too late already
for me to grasp the comforting thought,
and look around
and realize that there is plenty of time.
Too late to make my house at a point along the path
where I can look across the back fence and watch
Death mowing my lawn,
where we can exchange Christmas cards and pleasantries,
where simply living
is a near-death experience;
so that when he finally says,
"Do you want to come over tonight,"
I can, without hesitation,