on the day of his death under the rails of a streetcar,
did Mark C. wake up with a hangover, a stranger
in his bed, a feeling of loss or disillusionment,
a bad mood, a bad dream, a sense of despair about the world
at large, or his own tight and wounded corner of it?
Did he cut himself shaving, forget to eat breakfast,
worry about his job or his kids or the performance
of his sliding stocks? Had he had a rocky discussion
with mother? Did a date cancel the dinner he'd looked forward to
all week? Had he lost his car keys? Was he on his way
to a City Hall wedding, or the sea lions at the bayfront pier,
or the video store to return the obscenely late rentals?
The morning news won't tell me much of anything.
All I know is he stepped, most inopportunely, on the tracks,
was dragged three blocks before the streetcar stopped,
and I don't want to imagine the scene after that.
I forget about the million ways I could reach my conclusion -
the daily cataclysmic possibilities that present themselves
merely because I walk out the door for a carton of milk.
Instead, I paint my own small horror of finality -
cancer, a brain tumor, something with the breasts
or the ovaries or the skin. I focus primarily on
the idea of decline and interminable disappearance,
the body going, going, going so long before it's gone.
But who has room in their heads for heatstrokes
and heart attacks, death by mountain lion or rabid dog,
a tiny gas leak, a freak fire at a movie house,
falling debris from some construction site, electric shock,
a sewage line gone haywire, or poor Mark's final straw,
the greasy wheels of the N Judah.
I suppose, in the end, all I want to know
is I paid attention when it counted most:
the cascade of red flowers in a French windowbox
on a perfect fall day, and how easy it was, once,
to believe in the splendor of things, no matter how brief.