The Book of the Dead Man (#35)

by Marvin Bell

1. About the Dead Man and Childhood
In an evening of icicles, tree branches crackling as they break
frozen sap, a gull's bark shattering on snow, the furnace
turned down for the night, the corpse air without exits
here the dead man reenters his fever.
The paste held, that was dry and brittle.
The rotting rubber band stuck to the pack of playing cards to keep
it together.
In the boy's room, the balsa balanced where there had once
been glue.
Recognition kept its forms in and out of season.
Why not, then, this sweaty night of pursuit?
He has all of himself at his disposal.
He has every musical note, every word, though certain notes of the
piano have evaporated.
Shall he hear them anyway
The dead man's boyhood home withholds from its current
occupants the meaning of desecration, nor shall they be the
destroyers of the past in their own minds.
You too have seen anew the giant rooms of the little house in which
you were a child.
You have seen the so-heavy door that now barely resists a light
You have walked down the once endless corridors that now end
Were you so small then that now you are in the way?
You too sat at the impossibly high kitchen table with your feet
dangling, drawn down by the heavy shoes.
All this and more the dead man remembers the connective
quality of.
In those days, there was neither here nor now, only there and the
time it would take to reach it.

2 More About the Dead Man and Childhood
After Adam ate the apple, there was one more, and then one
After Orpheus looked back, there was another and another. .
The dead man discerns betwixt and between, he knows mania and
depression, he has within him the two that make one, the
opposites that attract, the summer pain and the winter pain.
He walks both the road of excess and the least path, and lives most
in the slow-to-ripen spring and extended autumn.
The dead man does not come when called but tries to hit a baseball
in the dusk.
He does not yet know he wants to ride the horse that took the bit in
its mouth.
He lives in the attic and the big closet where thee radio parts and the
extra glassware hold their codes.
He is the initiate.
He feigns nothing, he has nothing else in mind, later he will be
charged with having been a boy.
Even now, in May and September he feels the throbbing tissue of
that fallow world from which he was forced to be free.
The dead man in adulthood knows the other side, and he winces at
the fragility of the old songbooks, taped and yellowed, held
there in time.

Last updated November 30, 2022