POET - Pleasure


The Vedas tell us that human perfection is achieved only in dreamless sleep; no desire, no fear, no ego, just a state of pure being. I believe that’s true, but waking from a dream to rain drumming the windows and the roof, I draw my legs across the warm cotton sheets, bury my head in the pillows and rest this side of sleep; no longing, no anxiety, no harm done.

Three women walked toward me on the street, and all of them were lovely, but one was more beautiful than the rest. Her breasts, loose under a gauzy blouse, swayed with every step, and her nipples carved little circles in the air. As she was about to pass me she dropped her keys, and stopped just an arm’s length away. Before I could move, she bent over from the waist, and out of modesty, or courtesy, I might have turned away, but I looked.

When I was a young man and found I had cancer, my friends held a benefit. There was music and dancing, and when the night was over, they gave me a paper bag filled with cash. My wife then was always worried about money, but whenever she panicked, I reached into the sack and handed her a fistful of bills. I’ll never be that rich again. Not a moment escaped me. I had everything I needed and nothing to lose. I’ve never been happier than when I was dying.

Stephen sends me clippings from the Times. Joe Black, a pitcher for the Dodgers, is dead. The poet Philip Whalen is dead. A Buddhist Lama, dead for 80 years, sits in a full lotus dressed in a golden robe, his radiant skin still pliant. In Montana, a desperate man feeds a boy to his neighbors; in the New Square Fish Market a 20-pound carp shouts apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew. We can’t resist, and though we spend our whole lives trying, can never touch all there is.

I took the children to pick berries, and their fingers and their faces were soon stained red with warm, sweet juice. There were mice running ahead of the children in the furrows, and overhead there were hawks, waiting for them.

I’d like to reduce everything to one syllable—a groan, a sigh or startled come-cry. I’d like to hold the world in my mouth. I was looking for a single word, and the word was you.


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