I’m sorry. I’ve had a hard time not laughing
even now. This ridiculous grin
won’t get off my face. Dying did it,
though I don’t remember much about
being dead. Sometimes, horrible things happen:
children die, famine sets in, whole towns
are slapped down and turned to dust by earthquake.
I can’t help it, but these things start me
laughing so I can’t stop. My friends all hate me.
The morning my sister cracked her hip,
I was worthless; I had to run clear out
to the clay field to keep anyone from seeing
how it broke me up. I know. You think
I’m trash, worse than a murderer
or a petty god. I suppose I am.
I just get this quiver started
in me every time someone I know dies and stays dead.
I tremble all over and have to hold
myself, as if some crazy thing in me
were anxious to get out. I told you
I can’t remember being dead. I can’t.
But this weakness in my knees, or in my throat
keeps me thinking—whatever comes next
should be a thousand worlds better than this.
—Scott Cairns, The Translation of Babel (University of Georgia Press, 1990)