Douglas Van Gundy

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,
	Abnormal Psychology.
	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
	and 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,
	to stop
	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,
	answer, "Yes."