Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Down there

Surfacing slowly from a week of debilitating flu that, at
its nadir, had me wondering what I’d ever seen in work,
love, life, indeed any human activity at all. The point of
these things entirely eluded me as I lay day after day
trapped inside a body that—justifiably enough—was
solely interested in managing the varieties of pain it
was undergoing. This is what bodies do, I guess: when
the citadel is attacked, they pull in reinforcements from
every possible outpost; hence the neurotransmitters
normally responsible for my interest in books, politics,
culture, other people (oh them) etc were busy back at
base, leaving me either falling in and out of restless
sleep or staring hour after hour at the patterns of
sunlight and streetlight on the ceiling, playing mindless
word-games in my head. Fascinating. I am now, sort of,
on my feet, and mental machinery is slowly clanking
back into action, but you will still know me by my cough,
which sets the light-bulbs tinkling. Here is the best poem
about illness I know, by the Rumanian poet Marin Sorescu:


When you are ill you weigh more.
Your head sinks into the pillow,
Your bed curves in the middle,
Your body drops like a meteorite.
"He's so heavy," say the relatives,
They turn you on the other side
And nod meaningfully. "He weighs like the dead."

The earth feels its prey
And concentrates upon you
Its colossal force of attraction.
The iron in you hungers to go down.
The gold in you hungers to go down.
The gravitation of the whole world has its eyes on you
And pulls you down with unseen ropes...

You look like the bell the peasants
Take down before their exodus, burying it very deep,
Marvelling at the sight of the bell digging its grave,
Eagerly biting the dust.

You are all lead
And unto yourself
You have become exceedingly all-important,
Surrounded by endless mystery.

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