Dying by the Numbers

At the Funeral - From Diapers to Diapers, Dust to Dust - More Than Ten Years Gone; V is for Victory Gin - 93

At the Funeral

At the funeral they were dry-eyed from crying for the last eighteen months.

The hand of the doctor, which held every chemical and pill known to man, was held back by the lawyers and by the priests in black gowns, doing more rounds.*

The doctor, who had sworn to do no harm, had been forced to watch while the pandora box of pills brought on dementia and paroxysm.

The hand of the doctor was so shaken with the trembling of the seven million wards of shaking geriatrics, who could neither live nor die, that he couldn't administer the blue pill of release, even if they let him. 


* William Blake, stanza 3 from “The Garden of Love” (1794): “And I saw it was filled with graves, / And tomb-stones where flowers should be: / And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds, / And binding with briars, my joys & desires.”


From Diapers to Diapers, From Dust to Dust

At three you’re happy to get all the toys:

rattle, baubles, teeth.

At seventy you watch as each of these is slowly taken from you:

hearing, seamen, knees.

At ninety-three you barely see them drifting outward

over the dark blue water,

Charon smiting you with his oar,

as they drift across the river of oblivion: 

teeth, baubles, rattle.




More Then Ten Years Gone*; V is for Victory Gin**

Whereas once he strat through golden grandes avenues nouvelles

Bare-breasted, rippling abs, hair waving to the pretty crowd

Like Robert Plant onstage grinding his fruit machine

Now the spent god waddles like a thing undone

Through the old repetitive self-same streets

Sartre's nausea trailing him everywhere

His face in every window he sees

Upper buttons ten years gone

Barely lifting his head

Like a black dog

In the noon-

Day s



* Led Zeppelin's "Ten Years Gone" is about love and time

** Victory Gin is the grim drink of defeat in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. His description of it at the beginning of the novel is as grim as his description at the end: “Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine. Instantly his face turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallowing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful”; “He took up his glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful he drank. But it had become the element he swam in. It was his life, his death, and his resurrection. It was gin that sank him into stupor every night, and gin that revived him every morning.”



The boys' giggles bubbled up like cartoon circles

Crowding into the rafters of the café

Up against the windows

That looked out into the vast long world

Of continents and endless sky

Until the cumulated hilarity of dribbles

Turned into a surge his old muscles couldn't stop

And they exploded in laughter

As the yellow water streamed

Down the leg of the old wooden chair

And they laughed and they laughed

And over the years they laughed

And they laughed

Until the tears dripped down their faces



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