The First Night of Winter

As the first cold night of winter makes itself felt
and deepens the silence of the darkness,
I feel a heaviness, like that of fatal judgment,
settle around me,
dimming the already low, yellow light
thrown off by the single bulb;
testament to the long finished battle between Tesla and Edison.

This day spent hearing my friend’s doom
spoken of calmly in long, scientific terms,
in that small room, with its three chairs
and its raised, padded table.
Spoken by a man not unkind,
yet professionally unprofligate of too much kindness.

And in that enormous compound of
flesh,
blood,
chemicals,
and machines,
they come by their many thousands,
each to hear and partake of
his or her own weird fate.
And the place is a monument,
no, a temple,
or even the temple,
where come the hopeless,
for help,
and the helpless,
for hope.

And all who come leave with both, and with neither.

By what grace, then, am I here to simply observe?
Beyond, for now, whatever ill will has brought
this calamity unto my friend?

In that moment, in this preternatural darkness,
On this first cold night of winter,
I look back upon myself, as from across the room,
and think, “poor shell, on which so much has been expended.”
And I know the difference between my self
and that shell for which someday will be shed maudlin tears.

And, to my surprise, this is not a fearful thing.

Los Angeles, October 12, 2012

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