As in the Great and So On by Sarah Odishoo

If I could tell you the hour you would die, the clicking of that particular moment, and the hour you would fall in love, and all the machinery of all the mysteries numbered in newsprint, the avenue you haven’t reached but will, if I could rewind your life with the loyalty of a wheel, dumb and repeating, so I could dismember, unmake, reverse your street, the place you were born, and the woman who bore you—

If I could do all that, would you believe me? Love me? I don’t think so.

But I do it anyway. Necessity works. A story becomes a story when it has an ending. Once you know the end, then you dedicate your life to fulfilling it. That’s called Fate. It plays you; you don’t play it.

I look for endings. Call me Dr. Death.



Imagine: Standing at the Gate of Death, a crooked dwarf—small, greedy, dishonest—a crooked little man who offers you the same fear—the same ride, the terrifying one, the one you think will disembowel you—and that’s the price of it.

Imagine: The same crooked dwarf saying, “Again?” and handing you something like a ticket.

Imagine: The word “again” triggering an awareness, an enormous blind power behind everything you have ever done, thought, dreamed of, and the depth of which you have just now in the hearing of the word “again” heard a stroke unwind, realizing that this fear is the same fear you rode before, and it is used over and over again, offered by the same crooked little man. And each time you forget, but you continue to pay for the ride, thinking you are paying for a new ride, a new thrill, a new fear.

But it is always the same one.

“It will be day and night again. Your heart will beat again,” and he’ll ask you, “Again?”

And you will say, “Yes, I’ve always wanted to ride this ride.”

That is Dr. Death’s calling card. And yours. That’s Fate.



“Everything has a ‘meaning’ if only you can find it.”

— Duchess of Wonderland


Deep Roots

Fate: Bury me deep in a compost heap, and I’ll come up inside of you somewhere. Everyone is an expert at dying. Leaves go away and come up somewhere else. Leaving is a poetic repetition, forgetting and repeating “again.”

Fate reminds me of a man who borrows your watch to tell you the time.



Two poets looking at the sea:

One poet looks at the other and says, “Look at that sea!”

The other poet responds, “Yeah, and that’s just the top.”

Everything is deeper than it looks.



Just as poets tell us about our dreams, outlaws live their dreams. Things around you will say no. But when you are standing outside the law, the whole society will be wrong. You will be right, say the outlaws. You can’t obey others’ law.

And if you can say yes, you will be a martyr. You write your own rules. You do that when you fall in love. All lovers are outlaws. A love affair is a romance with death—self-annihilation, self-destruction. You can’t lifeguard yourself. The answer to a love affair? Yes to Death.


Impossible Choices

Captain to deep-sea diver:

– Ship is sinking. Come up quick.

Can we go back to where we came from if “back” isn’t there?



When you’re in something you love, love is perfect. You’re imperfect. But you’re in a reality from which you cannot extricate yourself, and even if you could, you wouldn’t. The drama of it shows you the truth, shows you something about yourself. That truth can’t be changed. It has immortality. When you face it, you’re stunned by it. It’s a truth no one knows now but you. That is the drama of death.

What visions will you die for?



That truth is always hidden. If you find it, then you’re stuck with it. After you see the truth, you can’t be false to yourself anymore. The truth outs you. And you have found what is worth dying for. But before you found the truth, you realized it was the dying part that scared you.



One poet to the other:

Poet: The wine you serve tastes like goat piss.

Host: I know. Want to make something of it?

Next day, Poet sends Host a goat with note:

– Now you have a vineyard.

Poet gives communion.


Eating Books

Unrequited love requires eating books that kill. How else to mirror the emptiness? Death gives meaning to the meaningless.



Love is a form of violence. All acts of love are acts of violation. To love someone means it will do violence to the lover and to the beloved—breaking them open, tearing them apart.

Heroism is knowing you will die to who you think you are, and you continue to love without provisions.


Marlene the Tool

There are two kinds of women in the Game:

– One who knows what is valued by men and dresses to please them, thinking she knows what she wants.

– One who knows the rules of the Game and plays like a man, thinking she knows who she is.

Both have performed an act of violence. Neither of them know it.

Call Dr. Death.


The Gilda Cage

In a dream, I am in a black chair—like a chairlift—independently flying above a ski lift apparatus with chairs being driven up into the air through mountains. I’m also above, watching.

The chair below is occupied by lovers. He says

– My name is Cage. What’s yours?

She says

– My name is Gilda, but my grandfather’s name was Cage.

– That must mean we’re brother and sister; we won’t be able to marry—

– I don’t have to tell them my grandfather’s name…

– I don’t think we can marry—we are too related. They won’t let us…

Naming is Death by Association.


High Realism

A poet said once, “The poet’s job is naming the unnamable,” but what if a poet’s job is living the unlivable? Is that Death: living the inchoate, the indescribable, the unknowable?

Living with Death is hearing the words in a mysterious poem. I don’t know what it is saying, exactly, or what it means, precisely, but I know the mystery articulated when I hear it. It kills the living reality.

If a poem is saying the unsayable, Death is its communicator. I already see the end—I’ve died to the other way of seeing—the surface of the sea, the ship sinking, the leaves leaving and returning, the transformation of wine, and the storytelling, crooked dwarf, repeating “again.” Poetry helps me become versed in the uncharted, the raw, the sense of Death, diving into the depths of the sea to see what I can see, staying there when I hear the call to come up, and drinking the wine that is endlessly available, but it too has a price. Knowing what it is I’m drinking in.



Words prove so distant from the facts of being human. But we say them anyway. In the end, there is nothing in the world the voice can duplicate; but the tongue, the ship going down, becomes the vehicle of desperate, innermost genius.

This is the crux—a cat’s cradle—weaving one side into the other, the precise equivalent of a joke, merging opposite known directions into a crossroads that unifies them to something new that delights—original may be the wrong word. Perhaps a better word is more like the Semitic word “Messiah”—meaning in the original Aramaic—someone who has birthed that which had never been before, someone, us—each one of us—who can save ourselves by a new way of seeing—someone who has found the thread of the mystery and lived it, discovered, invented the never imagined. Imagine!

This time, we will not repeat “again” but search for a different force, a newborn insight with a god-like knowledge—dying to know—but by differentiating through that inborn love the preconscious word from its grammar, the grammar from its content, the content from its context, discerning the speaker from her instincts, the instincts from her species, the species from its cosmos, setting apart the cosmos from its creation, and so on…as in the Great and So On…

I’m getting to it—Death, that is. But then everything I say mirrors it.



Sarah Odishoo (English) is a poet and writer. Her essay “Germane German: A Lesson in Dispelling,” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize by Under The Sun.


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