To Death

In memory of Joseph Alexander Banks

To Death

I. Velocity

The average man weighs
around 180 pounds
and from a seventh story fall
it takes only three seconds
to hit the ground

In that span of three seconds
I wonder what he thought
if his mind like mine
was filled with kinematic equations
formulas predicting
the moment of impact
telling us precisely
his highest point
before he fell

I wonder what that weightlessness
was like as he hovered in the air
a slight curvature, torso bent
and arms spread as though in flight
was it a slow decline or depression
that curled away from stillness
as the hands of gravity
held his hands for one last moment

And momentum, a product of velocity
is either positive or negative
either we are rising or falling
but maybe on the ground
we see it backwards
maybe falling isn’t falling
if it feels like flying in the air

II. Continuity

I woke up today the same as yesterday
the same as tomorrow
it’s a schedule he has forgotten
and what does it matter
if one candle has flickered out
when all the rest are burning
what does it matter if one well
has dried up
if all the rest are overflowing
and what does it matter
if one set of dreams
were wiped from the record
when every morning every dream
is forgotten. For all the things
that have changed
everything else is still the same
but if he is trivial
if he was, aren’t I?

III. Closure

That moment when
“Who would start such a rumor?”
“Who would do such a thing?”
and I’m left wondering
not what filled your days
before this Monday
but what filled your mind
in that moment between life
and death: three seconds.
Did you change your mind
did you want to live
cry for one last mouthful
one last heartbeat
or was death your savior
taking your hand one finger at a time
a slow whisper from your lungs
as your soul departed?

Sometimes I wonder
how far one must fall
for the body to shatter
My mind twists around images
of crime scene television
of puddles dripping between the bricks
I wish it’s only fiction
I wish it was instantaneous
and I wish you had no regrets
that at least, for a moment, you could say
I did everything I wanted
because I know, my friend
it isn’t dying that breaks us
but living that tears us apart
and all these pieces
all my pieces
were broken from that start

But still I wonder and I’m afraid
I never knew you
but maybe we’re more alike
than you or I will ever know
and maybe I will be the next body
flying into gravity
the next passenger
on the long flight to death
maybe in another life
I could’ve held your hand instead
and walked you from the edge
and all these questions
unanswered, converge
upon this memorial of letters
fluttering as the wind blows
like fallen feathers now tethered to the ground
by burnt-out candles
a silver rose
bundles of flowers
bright, colorful, timeless in the sun

Someday they will join you
bring these bounties
to your resting place.
Someday we, too, will join you.

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