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-
* 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
Next: Living by the Numbers