by Marilyn L. Taylor

One by One

Now You are closing down my five senses, slowly,
and I am an old man lying in darkness.
—Czeslaw Milosz

First, I will draw backward from the stench
of living; I will make myself immune
to its erotic sweats and stinks, quench
my lust for one more August afternoon,
the steam of which will be forgotten soon—
the human brain is that incompetent
at conjuring the memory of scent.

Then I will put my fingers to my ears
to silence the brass bands performing there
with frills and flourishes, greeting the years
as they sweep past. Instead, I will prepare
a quiet room for taking in the spare
continuo of leaves dropping from trees—
no harmonies are more profound than these.

The trick is to un-feel what one has felt
against the fingertip, the cheek, the groin—
that rare capacity we all were dealt
for knowing lavish pleasures, rattling pain,
lethal implosions where the two conjoin.
I un-remember them, I dis-evoke,
I let them dwindle into air and smoke.

Foreground, background. Particle and field.
Every law that proves or justifies
the separateness of things has been repealed:
contours and edges melt before my eyes
and there is nothing left to recognize.
Blinking, I sit behind a watery scrim,
watching forms and colors seep and swim.

Now I will push aside the bedside glass
of medicated liquor, thick and sour,
refuse to let its chalk and brimstone pass
across my tongue. I yield, at this late hour,
to the obliteration of my power,
relinquish my compulsion to consume.
My shadow curls. I am the one consumed.

From Subject to Change
(David Roberts Books).