Sing of despair, of days, this song the abyss in you. The ocean is deep but Lake Vostok is deeper still. A person can’t float in it, can’t taste it. A person can’t even see it but only imagine with sonar and drills how cold and dark and still it must be. Although sometimes, somehow, you slip through a borehole into that fossiline water and sink through its radiance, a brightness not seen but felt in the freezing, a place where fathom pulls you to a depth you could never plumb yourself, a true straight line with no handholds to stop your fall. Days pass, and nights come, and mornings—and streetlights flash at dusk and dim at dawn and the garbage men bang the dumpster and the snowplow scrapes the street—and you have to hit the snooze and swim, and find the shore, and heave to land like a first live thing with legs deep beneath the southern pole and lay upon the rocks and just breathe, just for a second, and drink coffee or maybe tea, with cream or maybe milk.
You cannot know your own death, but you can wake to it, and you have laid on a grave and looked at the sky—Pete Brady at the edge of a ravine, his stone near sliding off and not next to any others—and wondered what it might be like to float on a scree of beetles through the lower planes of a soil world, to turn mildew, turn mold, and to mulch the roots of sage and brome, these rough offspring screwed through the whites of your eyes. In the shower, wash and look deep into your skin, read the leaves between your flesh and your bones. Here Death’s catechism is routed across your years, one, two, however many, however long. The middle class is dying of despair.
Chair, floor, rug, book, just flotsam on the water as you slept in a body you thought would not wake—you did not know 90 sleeping pills would not kill you—and you can’t remember, not much. Was it enough to have no job, to stack bills unpaid in a drawer, to know you would not keep your house? Now, again, you dress for work and wish you could recall, but can’t, those moments before you fell asleep when you were sure you wouldn’t live, when the lake filled your eyes and ears with the nipping mouths of worms that make their own light in wells without the sun, when you knew your mind would be lost—loss of mind the thing that scares you most—and not recovered, and that pieces of you, small at first, would drop to the rug, to the floor, preceding the drop to the ground, to the earth, as thought shed its motes and shadow shed the shapes you made as you came into the room with the bottle, hopeless, hoping, for what would leave and what would be left.
In dark ocean places, bacteria make lanterns of squid.