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The Dating Game

Browsing through an encyclopedia —
distinguished lives, starting and ending
(1533 to 1587, circa 1213-1254, 1838-1906...),
nothing sinister about it: what begins
should end. "1485 -" would be a loose end,
as annoying as an itch. Yet here I am,
passing through 2003 (reaching my Dad's age
when he died), a year likely to close
many biographies (written or never-to-be-written
or written, but never-to-be-read),
and though, so far, I persist in being "1942-",
I don't feel like a loose end. I have no
nervous need (like one who can't keep
from straightening a crookedly-hung painting)
to fill in the missing date.

Except when I browse through encyclopedias,
dreaming of distinction and authoritative statements
that I was the somethingest of the somethings
and a great influence on generations of
something-else-ists (supported as I browse in bed

by my left elbow, my body protesting
in spots, telling me to go back to sleep
or get the hell up) — except at such times,

it seems odd that distinction should be so hard
on bodies, as if fame supplies the final bracket,
the coup de grace; as if biographies
should exude a charnel stench. I read,
"He was an advocate of currency inflation
for the sake of labor and the farmers," and
"He [another he; there are so many!]
was also renowned for his translations
of English, French, German and Italian classics,"
(and one day in the year noted, his sharp
educated eyes went glassy and still),

and I wonder, did Assistant Professor so-and-so,
writing these words with the use of his
incomplete body (missing its final date),
tremble to condemn so many lives to wasness?

This encyclopedia came out in 1975,
28 years before now-I-write, how many years
from now-you-read (if you do)? The calendar
insists that so-and-so taught at somewhere
University and wrote many entries in the
such-and-such Encyclopedia. And I wrote
all this way back when this body
could nag me to get out of bed
(if I'm distinguished enough for these words
to have found their way to the now-future-
and-soon-to-be-past you).

Incredible, the things we do
to tell ourselves our stories,
starting "Once" and, we hope,
never running out of "...and then...".

copyright c. 2005 by Dean Blehert

Last Updated: November 9, 2005