Old men ought to be explorers
here or there does not matter
we must be still and still moving
into another intensity
for a further union, a deeper communion
through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
the wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
of the petrel and the porpoise.
In my end is my beginning.
~ T. S. Eliot
excerpt from East Coker V Four Quartets
If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full, let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn, let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything, give everything up.
now, listen, when I die I don't want any crying, just get the
disposal under way, I've had a full some life, and
if anybody has had an edge, I've
had it, I've lived 7 or 8 lives in one, enough for
we are all, finally, the same, so no speeches, please,
unless you want to say he played the horses and was very
good at that.
you're next and I already know something you don't,
waiting for death
like a cat
that will jump on the
I am so very sorry for
she will see this
shake it once, then
it's not my death that
worries me, it's my wife
left with this
I want to
let her know
that all the nights
even the useless
and the hard
I ever feared to
can now be
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
The doctor came to tell us that he had died I thought it was just for that day, so I went to bed early and slept well.
But the next morning I heard them talking downstairs; apparently he had still died (even though the doctor wasn’t calling to tell us today).
So it’s gonna be a few days, I figured; we might as well have a funeral. We drove hundreds of miles in dozens of cars finding and losing the way ‘round and ‘round standing ‘round and ‘round, crying, listening, crying listening standing and standing around.
But when it was over he had still died so there was nothing to do but drive home. It took hours and then the refrigerator had broken down. We soon fixed it but he had still died.
And every night after that I slept as long as I could to give him a chance to not have died.
But in the morning they were always downstairs and when I asked if he had still died the answer was always, "Yes."
And so it went into a week and then it went into two weeks. Eventually it went into months.
And it kept going.
It wouldn’t stop.
It kept on having happened.
No matter what I did, it refused to not have happened.
Even if I wrote in my diary about it
Even if I wrote a poem about it
Even if I forgot about it,
IT didn’t forget about it.
Not for a second was it caught off guard.
It was as stubborn as the music of the spheres.
It just wouldn’t let bygones be bygones.
To this day it has happened.
It insists on having happened.
It will never tire of having happened.
Nothing will distract it from having happened.
It was more than one day. It was more than one week.