The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

No one suspected that the shark had put himself in the box. Not only chosen the box, not only swum into it in careful, back-and-forth motions like a car squeezing into a too-tight parking space, but constructed the box itself, designing the enclosure with its supposedly primitive mind meant only to think about the sweetness of thrashing fish meat; somehow–with gesticulation of fin and careful clenching of jaw muscles, it riveted the iron beams holding the plexiglass.

And now, it holds still not through the effects of any formaldehyde emulsion, but through its own discipline, through commitment to its art.


Self portrait of my
perhaps end years

This is what I have seen.

This is what I will be.

just there
a plain of rippled mockery
–lambasting my white privilege

And everywhere
everywhere the aging pull of gravity

You will think you
see my blood
–and it is there–
but not where you imagine

You can see the rolling hills
I have never lain upon

Behold the artifice/artifact that
constrained me

And if you pick just the right detail:
my soul itself


A pebble that needed no support

no ligatures between firmament
firm ground

Are we reaching
or digging

Is this some new titan
holding up the heavens

How long until the bough breaks
we tumble

Brown bones
of the world
Bronzed but brittle

Did He merely dream
Was he only hoping
that there was some weight upon his shoulders

Because what if not?
What if it was only
open hands
and an indifferent sky


The idea came to him while reading Ovid.

Suddenly, he thought the poet had not been ambitious enough. 

Yes, Ovid had written a history of the world beginning with the deepest lore of Greek mythology up to the deification of Caesar—but so much felt glossed over. There were so many corners cut. 

So this would be his answer to Ovid: a new translation from the Latin, but interspersed with his own translations of Homer. But he would introduce his own verse as well. When Ovid got to the Trojan War and glossed over nine years worth of battles, he would layer in new stories of the heroes, then connect wholesale to the Iliad, then keep going. An entire verse history of the Western world, calling on all the great poets. Link up and hold hands with Virgil. Then compose a whole new epic based on Gibbon for the fall of Rome. Thousands of new lines to cover the Dark Ages. Meet up with Beowulf, sure. Why not? The poetry would come alive again with the Renaissance. There would be cantos for each great artist, each great thinker. Traipse from Michelangelo all the way to Shakespeare and then Newton—Locke, Descartes, Roseau. A whole epic for the Age of Reason. Who should be the heroes for the conquest of the Americas? Surely a war poem for Washington, but he’d need others in between. No matter, he could shift focus as liberally as Ovid himself did. Eventually, he’d reach the apex of human conflict—an epic beyond all previous epics for World War II. Then treat the Cold War with the same sort of muted meter he had the Dark Ages. Weave that into the doldrums of the early twenty-first century, through plague and corruption.

And then…then go further. Beyond his own era, the whole poem would become science fiction. Convert Kim Stanley Robinson to iambic hexameter. He salivated at the prospect of a space battle modeled on Hector’s flight from Achilles. And beyond. Reembrace myth. Follow Superman to the doom of the sun, finally weakening when its rays turn red. 

As he considered the scope of it, he thought constantly of Chaucer and the unfinished Canterbury Tales, but tried to encourage himself. He was a young man, after all. If he could live to ninety, then he had a chance of finishing. There was time. He mapped out a schedule on the wall of his apartment. There would be no room in his life for something so mundane as a job now. He’d have to rely on some kind of public assistance. And Carol and the kids would have to go. Unneeded distractions. 

But he would really have to learn Ancient Greek to get started.