Michael Gottlieb / Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet / 13


In the end, why do we keep on?

To what degree did we say to ourselves when we were young that this activity might somehow not just bestow some otherwise unobtainable value on our lives, or even in some way ennoble us, but in addition, by virtue of the possibility that our work could – in theory, at least – abide after we ourselves had departed from this plane, this earth, could in fact – notwithstanding how fantastic a notion, not to mention infantile, if not downright pathetic, such conjuring may indeed seem to us now – provide us with, at least for a few years, some period of, let’s call it, a life-after-life?

And, truth be told, to what degree might that have been an impulse, a driver impelling us on? And, if so, now that we are so much closer to that inevitable expiry date, how are we obliged, if at all, to rethink that proposition?

Now that we see how quickly and completely so many of our friends and peers unfairly and cruelly have been cut from our ranks at an untimely age, and are already well on the way – if they are not there already – to oblivion… who speaks of them, those among us who are gone already? Who speaks for them? Who speaks up for them?

And we won’t likely be able to dodge this particular reckoning either, surely. Those dread, fell, inconsolable, overmastering premonitions that grip us – and who among us has not felt them – each and every time one ventures into a bookstore, any bookstore… into for example, the nether reaches of the Strand – with its mile upon mile of sad, soiled, largely forgotten hard-backed tomes, the works of thousands upon thousands of once proud and strutting authors, now largely consigned to oblivion. And what are we, compared to them?

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