Easier to think about the body of the comet than the human body. Easier to see its white hair stretch out in the solar wind than to visualise a synapse in the brain. And to understand the progress through bleak space, thousands of years to complete an orbit—that is easier to picture than a life.
And yet if I told you that death would set you in the heavens like a comet, how would you live your life, knowing your state of grace would be to form a head of ice, hurled beyond Pluto, rapt in a meditation of the sun?
Your hip aches. Your rectum itches. Your hair falls out or is replaced by coarse white wire. Your nostrils and ears fill with bristles (these also white). The skin around your eyes crumples into wizened crepe and droopy sacking. And your brain empties its rooms. You wander through vacancies.
I write to you today about soteriology. But first, let me tell you about the spring. Inside its dykes the city is on fire with dogwood blossoms, denser and whiter than cataracts. The comet has dragged its whiteness through the trees and it hurts the eyes. Knowing it can’t last hurts, too.
The world sees the lonely traveler and calls, “Comrade!” Surely the comet has a soul. Surely, in some age we can esaily imagine (more easily than infancy), the doctrine of salvation fell from its wake and caressed the planet and created rain.
Thus every eye that looks back at us seems to speak a word. Thus every surface that surprises us with touch seems to know us.
I am talking to the least of you. That man squatting fully alert behind his desk. That boy between two desperate parents, slapping himself on the chin. That girl just before she understands the powerlessness of beauty. That woman hiding inside her house. Those fishing with their own flesh for bait. Those too hungry to lift food to their mouths. Those posing naked. Those with them.
We fly off. We rush headlong, growing harder and colder. We leave a star behind and finda a star before us. It becomes a face, its mouth uttering love and its breath flaying us alive. We rush off. We fly headlong.
And all the while, throughout our lives, our solitude defines us like a body we wear inside our body, bone in muscle, muscle under skin, thought inside of skull, light within the eyes, until we think salvation, if it comes, will come to save that solitude.
by Mark Jarman