Thursday, January 29, 2009

The split second

I've been thinking a lot about that split second between being a normal, healthy person and finding yourself on the ground with something broken because of the ice and then snow we just got over the slush-refrozen-into-ice that was already on all the sidewalks and roads and the treacherous iced-gravel path running down the center of campus at the local college (a path that only alumni are fond of).

Today I took my car out during a level two snow emergency because I had a meeting at the local college, and because we were all stir crazy at my house. So far, it's been no problem. I'm feeling like a capable northerner, like I'm becoming the kind of person who Obama says (according to today's newspaper) needs to "toughen up" about "a little ice."

But the southerner in me, the person who grew up knowing that you shouldn't go out in a car until noon, when it all melts, is underneath this capable exterior, feeling panicky. The southerner in me is thinking of this poem, Someone by Dennis O'Driscoll:

someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie
eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea
scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last
shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out
spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass
someone today is leaving home on business
saluting, terminally, the neighbors who will join in the cortege
someone is trimming his nails for the last time, a precious moment
someone's thighs will not be streaked with elastic in the future
someone is putting out milkbottles for a day that will not come
someone's fresh breath is about to be taken clean away
someone is writing a cheque that will be marked "drawer deceased"
someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar
someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast
someone is making rash promises to friends
someone's coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined
who feels this morning quite as well as ever
someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today's date
perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament
someone today is seeing the world for the last time
as innocently as he had seen it first

Is this just superstition--as if thinking about how quickly the world can change will stop it from happening to me this time? Think about the sound a car makes as it hits something. Think about what it feels like to have a sore throat. Does it help to think of this?

6 comments:

Matt said...

I hope you and your family is safe during the winter storm. A lot ( of unfortunately bad things) can happen in a split second, and the consequence can be irreversible.

lemming said...

I hate it that the world continues when it makes the most sense to stay at home and away from the snow.

KD said...

Ai yi yi! What a properly uncomfortable poem.

It reminds me that I need to draw up (or have drawn up) a will.

I love the juxtaposition of bittersweet mundanities and the visceral intimacies of nail-trimming, final erections, and deodorizing "armpit grass". I confess that that's the turn of phrase most likely to stick with me, though the feel of the poem I expect will linger with me through the day.

Drive safely.

Jeanne said...

What a good phrase: "bittersweet mundanities". That's what I like about the poem, too.

Green-Eyed Siren said...

We Chicagoans get nervous too. Then we put on our flinty toughness and get in our cars! Because I drive a lot I worry about the odds sometimes, but there's nothing to be done about it except to drive slowly and decide it's just fine to be late. If I start concerning myself with the possibilities the way this poet does I'd never leave the house; might as well give up then. But that would be no fun at all, so off we go.

Jeanne said...

Siren, somehow it helps to know that Chicagoans get nervous, too!