One night, without sleep

In memory of all those who fell and were not saved

(I normally have little regard for trigger warnings,

but on this occasion, imagine that my words are prefaced with every trigger warning ever)

A body, on a battlefield, maimed and bleeding;

terrible pain, staring at the sky,

left to die.

An experience that must have happened a million times in human history,

an experience that must be happening somewhere right now.

My situation is better—perhaps. I lie, not on a battlefield, but in a sickbed.

I just have some kind of flu;

and an eye haunted by a migraine that comes, and goes, and threatens to come again;

and I am not sleeping.

Also, I can write.

The smartphone battery was almost dead, I thought I was resigned to simply lying awake for long hours, without the catharsis of expression;

but enough time passed that I stirred, reached for the laptop, hauled it onto the bed, plugged in the phone.


The monotony of describing mundane acts

has removed me from the experiences that impelled me to write.

Those experiences said: no one should have to endure anything like this;

life should not be created.

But it was not just sensation that tortured me.

It was the defeat of my will, not just now, but many times.

It was all the lost opportunities to create in my own life,

the pointless obstruction, and being left to rust,

that denied everyone the benefits of what I might have made,

that negated my rare attempt to actually fix, and transform this malign existence.


The sun is still far from rising, but my mind has stirred to something like wakefulness.

Possible words now queue for attention and selection,

the hubbub of daylight communication,

rather than crystallizing in the dark,

a single phrase that repeats and repeats and repeats that it not be forgotten.

And I have remembered another thought:

that I am so tired of this. Of having to endure pain, whole days lost to waiting for pain to fade,

in order to keep carting my burdens uphill, alone.

Once, I was optimistic,

fruit of a happy childhood perhaps,

and I think I still carry the error implanted,

the expectation that everything works out for the best,

that in the end one will be noticed and saved.

There was a time, a long time, when I thought I would do the saving;

I thought I knew perspectives that would cheer everyone up,

and recipes that would materially change the world for the better.

After enough years had passed, I added the thought:

this world as it is, needs transformation;

there is no groundswell to even try to make it better,

instead I find myself on a solitary march years in duration;

therefore, no one should create life.

That was 1996.


But both my defiant pursuit of a way to redeem existence,

and my sad insight that it is not now an existence in which life should be created,

remained hidden, buried. My life, and the world, twisted and turned, and I never produced a great work;

just fragments, actions, statements that echoed briefly in a handful of other lives.


Now I lose the momentum of this testimony too,

which began with a memoriam for all those lost who never return.

The sun will come, the illness subside, the migraine fade (though it returns weekly);

and during the long night I fashioned new tactics for escaping the circumstances that weigh on me,

that interfere with my imperatives, this time so much so that the effort to preserve my mind

left my body weak and sick with misery.

My experience tells me, a hundred times over:

shout for help, say you and all your possibilities are going to waste,

and no one will come for you.

So one is left to survive, on the charity of family and the cunning to make a little money,

left to attempt to do as much as possible on one’s own,

and then, occasionally, make another big appeal for help.

But time grows short; the machines have advanced;

it could mean hope more concrete than ever;

but I want to do more than just cultivate private hope,

I want to attempt with all my strength, to do the specific things that I see to be done.

And this is why the illness of bodily defeat is so bitter;

one’s struggle, conducted alone, but in the hope of one day dragging treasures into daylight,

is felled by the weakness of one’s own physical vehicle.

And now grief sears through me, though it seems that I will live to fight another day;

and a voiceless cry forces itself out (but I keep it silent, for the others who try to sleep, wrapped in their own lives, in rooms nearby),

and my cheeks are wet with tears.

Whether it is the thought of all those who were not saved,

or just the thought of myself and those others I have known who, though they lived, were not saved;

and there was a flash of fierceness too, some ancient killer instinct,

sensing opportunity to finally vanquish a foe.


There is only anticlimax left. Words, that I will not further shape despite their flaws,

a message from one depth and one overcoming,

out of the myriads that have been endured.

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