First a conflagration of blue bottle flies, the bloat of maggots. Days and weeks measured in the finger-seams of rib cage depressions. Skin and fur roughens, toughens; Skin and bone, detritus on the shoulder of the road.
The news of your impending death settles.
Aging lays a mantle of blood wash on the skin.
Already you have lost so much: weight, gravitas.
Months later, the deer is still there, flattened to a layer of stubble, wind-blown. Ribcage deboned and extruded, like some trick of the French kitchen. Leg bones disjointed and unsleeved. Thin as paper, beaten fine, becoming vellum, the weather slowly denudes even fur.
Bellied in the belly. Hollow.
The membrane calls, waits, sings to you to break it; once begun, its ragged edges clamor. Picture the opening & closing frames from a film reel, before the now of digital. Picture the way a frame, left too long over the heat of the bulb would warp and fire, spirit away. This is what your coughing promises.
Once begun, its edges clamor. The cough without end. The cough promises it is one more effort away from cleaning up any last left-over, any last fringe of curled acetate, but there is always one more effort required. The body becomes marked by perimeters of pain, centered in the trachea and bronchi, interlocking circles of red-rimmed heat.
But the dog has its needs
The morning muscles its way into the room.
There are letters & cards to be read, or not; reply isn’t expected.
Whatever was slipped between your lip and gum to palliate has worn off.
An encomium in fifteen-minute increments: first the spouse, then the children, the grandchildren, the friends from long ago. Fifteen minutes is all you can handle, these condensed elements from prologue to epilogue. Death becomes a simple economy of supply and demand; what we can supply, what your body demands.
You will not know us. Whether because it has entered the brain, or the cocktail of meds has obscured us, filtering the pain.
All summer I have been pulling bindweed, not to be fooled by the tiny cupped flowers that bloom out of concrete. Slightly larger leaves finally form, in the same places, and I leave them, and they are truly Morning Glory, with deep purple blooms, not their mimics. The beauty staggers into September.
It has been twenty-three days since we spoke on the phone, you waiting for the results, but already sure then.
During the silent film era, films were not projected at constant speeds. Projectionists varied the speeds; films were often accompanied by notes from the distributor.
In theory, the Persistence of Vision accounts for the appearance of film to the viewer. Despite the individual frames, the viewer does not see the individual frames. The flicker fusion threshold depends on the level of illumination; generally the rate of sixteen frames per second is the lowest threshold for continuous motion perceived by humans.
You showed me the contours of love: its depths & limits.
You showed me my father.
In theory, you were a New Formalist.
You, so tall, he, barely five feet – the narrow hospital bed lined with pillows – your slim feet beyond the tangled sheet – his arms awkward around you – one hand stroking your head – he tells me, “I had never held a grown man.”
To see the shutter space, the perforated black between frames, one needs to trick the eye. Close the eyes, and blink, very quickly, catching the seams. Retrain the eyes against the current of the moving image.