The Book of the Dead Man (Nothing)

Marvin Bell

 
Live as if you were already dead.  – Zen admonition
1. About the Dead Man and Nothing
The dead man knows nothing.
He is powerless to stop the battles, he has no way to reattach the arms and legs.
He cannot stuff the fallen soldier's insides back inside.
He has no expertise in the matter of civilian corpses, nor of friendly fire, nor beheadings, nor
     revenge, nor suicide.
He does not know the depth of depth charges, or the exact pressure that detonates a land mine.
The dead man has given his all so that now, if he once knew, he knows nothing.
He is emptied, he is the resonant cavity of which he spoke when it was music he was thinking of.
Let him be now the leftover button of his work shirt.
Permit him his fading mirror, his sputtering circuits, his secrets, his tears, his noonday duels
     with the sun.
Let him ride the roads in the bucket of an earth mover, can it hurt?
Let him stand under the icicles, can he catch cold?
For the dead man is stagnant without knowledge, and he cannot survive the demise of
     philosophy or art.
To the dead man they were not spectacles, but survival skills.
To the dead man, the world was but a birthmark that befell original space.
To say that the dead man knows nothing is to see him at the beginning, who can it hurt?
Before all this, he was nothing.
2. More About the Dead Man and Nothing
Don't bet he won't be born.
Before all this, this that is so much, he was not himself.
He was the free heat of space and then the salt of the earth.
He was the ring around the moon, foretelling.
The dead man had no station when he came to be, just a strange nakedness in the light.
He did not know what he was to do, this was before clocks.
So he decided to stab the dirt, to tumble in happiness and writhe in pain, and to flap his way
     into space.
To go home.
It was a swell idea for the dead man, and he pinned it to his chest.
Give him that, that he crystallized a plan, that he made from smoke something to him as real as
     quartz, ivory, or the hoof of a gelding.
The dead man had the whole world to transform or perfect or outlive.
He wrote the book of nothing and no-time that entombed all time and all that took place in time.
The dead man could not be hammered by analysis.
Let him horn in on your fury, whatever it was, and it will abate.
The energy that became form will disperse, never again to be what we were.
Look out the window to see him, no, the other one.
 
Copyright 2009 by Marvin Bell. Originally published in Poetry Miscellany. Used by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Around Us by Marvin Bell
We need some pines to assuage the darkness
Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002 by Marvin Bell
The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs
Mars Being Red by Marvin Bell
Being red is the color of a white sun where it lingers
The Book of the Dead Man (Food) by Marvin Bell
The dead man likes chocolate, dark chocolate
The Book of the Dead Man (Fungi) by Marvin Bell
The dead man has changed his mind about moss and mold
The Book of the Dead Man (The Foundry) by Marvin Bell
The dead man hath founded the dead man's foundry
The Book of the Dead Man (Your Hands) by Marvin Bell
Mornings, he keeps out the world awhile, the dead man
Time Study by Marvin Bell
The coffee was cold so I said so. I said,
To an Adolescent Weeping Willow by Marvin Bell
I don't know what you think you're doing
To Dorothy by Marvin Bell
You are not beautiful, exactly
White Clover by Marvin Bell
Once when the moon was out about three-quarters