Tim Mayo: “The Unadulterated Moment”



For Patricia Fargnoli


For me, maybe the unadulterated moment, if it comes,
is a heightened state slackened to a palatable point
where body and brain can balance before the end.
Or is it possibly . . . just a state of immense relief?
No, it must be more, although I’d settle for that.
Any old port in the storm as they say. But for you
the poet in me wants something more out-of-body,
where, when it fans its feathers before your eyes,
your jaw just drops and you’re there.

In poems of faith that’s how it always happens:
an affirmation of the human spirit extends its wing
like the hand of God. But in the flesh and blood world?
A bird before your eyes, and bingo! you’ve suddenly
bounced off the bottom of your life ascending
into the air of who-knows-where? Not a chance.

So let us then think of the practical how,
the mechanics to get you there without needing
some bureaucratic benediction, some absolution,
or a passport for your pale ghosts of regret.
Maybe all you need is just a gentle,
saline solution of generosity
flushing the blood right out of your veins—
I mean, why not? It feels right
in its medically nonjudgmental soulagement,
the cool liquid diffusing the fever that was
the passionate red of your life’s discomfort.
Your salut in all its meanings as you greet
the penultimate experience of your life.

The soul—I hate to say the word—twisted with the wishes
and wants of this world—I hate to say it, because
nothing’s immortal except the stone base of the universe—
the soul, as your seeing-eye dog sensing everything you can’t,
wants its way to where the flesh isn’t in the way.

Christ! How did I get here? Talking like this.
I’m not a believer. Yet I think of you, now, only you,
and not myself, my own less pain-racked body
aching in the dark with its muscle memories
of love and disaster. I think of you reaching
for this timeless moment, and I ask
why not pass those last moments of your life
in that grace of letting go, that anti-struggle to intellect,
where the big sigh you only have to exhale once
will lift you to the wherever you’ve always wanted to be?
Who cares whether it’s real or not.

Won’t that breath be worth it?


Tim Mayo’s poems and reviews have appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Avatar Review, Barrow Street, Narrative Magazine, One, Poetry International, Poet Lore, River Styx, Salamander, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, Verse Daily, Web Del Sol Review of Books, and The Writer’s Almanac. His first full-length collection was The Kingdom of Possibilities, (Mayapple Press, 2009), and his second volume of poems is Thesaurus of Separation (Phoenicia Publishing 2016). His chapbook, Notes to the Mental Hospital Timekeeper, was published by Kelsay Books in 2019. Mayo lives in Southern Vermont, where he was a founding member of the Brattleboro Literary Festival.

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