The old one-eyed poet said it is harder to
dismantle your life than to build it, but
I think it is just as difficult both ways.
I’m putting the finishing touches on the house of me.
Bolting the copper trout wind vane on the chimney,
mounting the mailbox by the road,
putting in the shrubbery and sod, laying out the welcome mat.
And doing it all never knowing if today
might be the last, or whether I have
6,200 more sunrises to enjoy, as I saw once in a dream.
It’s all just vanity, after all. I’ll pile my collection of rocks
beside the trail and someone will come along and
knock them over, not realizing what they are,
then steal a few to build their own pile.
These are not unusual worries and really
only concern me and a distressingly small circle of people.
The Nile River doesn’t care either way, Miami and
San Francisco and Shanghai are still going to flood,
people will always believe flim-flam artists,
the dinosaurs are still dead—
On the bright side, someday I’ll get to see
what they’ve been doing the last 65 million years.
This sorting and patching and filtering
feels like when you fall asleep on a hot, muggy
afternoon in a bad mood and wake up sweaty,
disoriented, not sure where – or who—you are.
The Work, though, goes on like a lazy creek.
It means to remember things, to patch torn screens,
To oil squeaky hinges of faintly remembered doors,
To somehow put a name to things and to see
What actually matters and which bits were bullshit.
(There has been a lot of the latter.)
The woman behind me on the train is coughing, reminding me
I read once that most of us die of suffocation,
Choking on our own accumulated miseries.
I can think of better ways to go.
This makes me start coughing, too.
So I’m putting the finishing touches on my life,
Essentially sewing my shroud. I’m not unhappy about this,
Mind you. I’m luckier than most, and get to do the
Necessary sifting and sorting. I have time for the Great Work.
Then it will be time to dismantle it all, brick by brick,
Board by board, while I have the strength.
I’m not panicking or being morbid, either. Just realistic.
I have the luxury to know what it is I need to do.
I’ll pack it in neatly labeled boxes and files. I’m lucky. I know that.
I get to tell my story, leave these words behind as an affidavit
And testimony in my own very ordinary voice—which will last
About as long as a certain pile of stones, I suppose. But
It’s the effort that counts. The making use of a life
To learn what one can. To leave a small mark behind.
And then to let go, and see where the current goes from here.