Everything Collapses In On Itself
(a meditation in the wake of the pandemic)
The bananas I placed in the bowl just two days ago,
black spotted and soft, their skins
wrinkled as pug faces.
The dog, merely sleeping,
but looking as though he’s come apart inside,
Dissolved into a pool of furry liquid
Even the roof, bowed and sagging
as a middle-aged man
whose partner has been diagnosed
with a terminal disease (cancer or dry rot),
and he’s caught between grief
and the reality that he cannot leave her
because then, he will really be
We are two, diminished bodies
holding tight to shrinking arms and legs,
Soon we’ll be gone.
The world will contract around us, holding us close, pushing
the banana and the house and the dog
and everyone we’ve ever loved,
and everyone we haven’t loved,
together, into a single point of light
or darkness or whatever we become
when the waiting is over.
Death contains its opposite.
Think of the first chemical replication:
amino acids, protein synthesis,
molecules folding and unfolding…
Life from nowhere. It’s small to think
nothing doesn’t cradle us to her chest and whisper
sweet somethings in our ears.
That’s the wrench of it.
Death is so small.
And it hurts to think about
the perfect mischief of your laugh
or your hand slipping into mine
in the half-dark of early morning
when you can’t sleep and so,
neither can I.
Even your lungs, filled to bursting with fluid and fibrosis,
eventually fall blackly back into the cavern of your body.
Even your swollen flesh recedes like melting ice.
Even your memory shrinks down to the thinnest wisp
of pink neurons launching their tiny fireworks
into the darkness.
May fear pass.
May pain diminish.
May desire fade.
May death release us.
May the lives of those we leave behind
be almost as full
as our own.
Ben Cromwell is an Assistant Professor of Writing at Marietta College in Southeast Ohio. He mainly writes YA and Middle Grade novels and has published work in Sage Magazine, Flyway, and Sugar House Review among others. To learn more visit his website bencromwell.net.