Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.
But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.
"You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally, the river floods these places. 'Floods' is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding: it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
Toni Morrison, 1986
One of the greatest betrayals of our illusion of permanence, one of the sharpest daggers of loss, is the retroactive recognition of lasts—the last time you sat across from a person you now know you will never see again, the last touch of a hand, the last carefree laugh over something that binds two people in intimacy—lasts the finality of which we can never comprehend in the moment, lasts we experience with sundering shock in hindsight. Emily Dickinson, the poet laureate of loss, knew this well:
We never know we go—when we are going
We jest and shut the door—
Fate following behind us bolts it
And we accost no more
Maria Popova, Figuring, pg 184
For as long as I can remember, this has been one of my favorite feelings. To be alone in public, wandering at night, or lying close to the earth, anonymous, invisible, floating. […] To make your claim on public space even as you feel yourself disappearing into its largess, into its sublimity. To practice death by feeling completely empty, but somehow alive.
∆ Maggie Nelson, The Red Parts