The Book of the Dead Man (Food)
Live as if you were already dead.
1. About the Dead Man and Food The dead man likes chocolate, dark chocolate. The dead man remembers custard as it was, spumoni as it was, shave ice as it was. The dead man talks food with an active tongue, licks his fingers, takes seconds, but has moved on to salads. It's the cheese, it's the crunch of the crunchy, it's the vinegar in the oil that makes a salad more than grass. The dead man has a grassy disposition but no cow stomach for flappy leaves and diced croutons. The dead man remembers oysterettes as they were. He recalls good water and metal-free fish. Headlights from the dock drew in blue claw crabs by the bucketful. A flashlight showed them where the net lay. If they looked bigger in the water than in the pail, they grew back on the stove. It was like that, before salads. The dead man, at the age he is, has redefined mealtime. It being the quantum fact that the dead man does not believe in time, but in mealtime. 2. More About the Dead Man and Food The dead man's happiness may seem unseemly. By land or by sea, aloft or alit, happiness befalls us. Were mankind less transfixed by its own importance, it would be harder to be happy. Were the poets less obsessed with the illusion of the self, it would be more difficult to sing. It would be crisscross, it would be askew, it would be zigzag, it would be awry, it would be cockeyed in any context of thought. The dead man has felt the sensation of living. He has felt the orgasmic, the restful, the ambiguous, the nearly-falling-over, the equilibrium, the lightning-in-the-bottle and the bottle in shards. You cannot make the dead man write what you want. The dead man offers quick approval but seeks none in return. Chocolate is the more existential, it has the requisite absurdity, it loosens the gland. The dead man must choose what he ingests, it cannot be anything goes in the world the world made. So we come back to chocolate, which frees the dead man's tongue. The dead man is every emotion at once, every heartbreak, every falling- down laugh riot, every fishhook that caught a finger.
Copyright © 2011 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted from Vertigo with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.