Michael Gottlieb / Letters to a Middle-Aged Poet / 2


What does it mean when you, who putatively were thinking life-and-death thoughts all along, you are a poet after all, aren’t you, get faced with some life-and-death-related realities, or rather, some specifically death-related realities, of your own?

You too. And it is you lying there waiting for the surgeon. But first the anesthesiologist, as in the proper order of things, comes to you and gives you his talk, practiced, with all the due diligence and nods to your involvement, your intellectual engagement, however specious, as part of the so-called process; his weary and not altogether tolerant acceptance of your small-talk, his grudging acknowledgement of your pallidly irreverent jokes.

As he continues, spinning out his practiced lines: what to expect, what else can go wrong, as if you weren’t already aware, as if there weren’t enough things already that could go wrong… you can see in his eyes, unrolling in a kind of practiced unspoken declamation, an array of additional terms and conditions. It is a demarche. In no uncertain terms he is demanding you acknowledge that what you have been offering up are no more than feeble sallies, proxies, actually – less than proxies, stand-ins for proxies – that’s what they are, nothing like any real challenge to him and all of his kind – to all of their utter sway over you; their sovereign, regnant power over your body, your fate, and those who are there to stand with you this day.

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