I looked and there on his wall, from his photos,
we all stare back: him/you/me/we: all of us,
emergent from chaos, unpredictable yet bound,
looping up from within and flinging ourselves forward,
ever forward—reborn with each and every labored breath,
scrabbling for what comes to mind.
Until, I suppose, like him soon enough,
we can’t, or don’t, or won’t, or shan’t,
although I believe we do, even then, beyond, think I mean.
We’ll see. Anyway, this is what I saw so clearly, then,
as my friend lay dying before me.
A dear friend who was, when I first conceived of this poem, dying, has since passed on to his richly deserved reward. He was a dear soul, a dedicated Bahá’í, and the patriarch of a large and loving family.
The question of free will—who we are and what is reality—is of great importance to me. I had been reading Michael Gazzaniga’s Who’s in Charge (highly recommended, by the way) and the issue was, and remains, much in my mind. This is the issue: where does the physical, deterministic brain end and the sense of the ephemeral self start?
Thank you for reading As a friend lay dying. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.
The photograph was taken in Killingly, RI. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.
Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.