Which Species on Earth is Saddest? by Dan Chiasson
It is Thursday and I am in the middle of several arguments with myself, all futile. I should be in bed even if it is eight in the morning. My hands smell of oranges. I peel them for breakfast, as I am wont to do these days. I love how easily the blade cuts through the skin, how I make continuous curls, how I can do this without really looking. For some reason I am reminded of a poem, how I have never thought of it for years until now. I am still grasping what I am trying to tell myself, if I have any say in this at all:
Which Species on Earth is Saddest?
When we wake up in our bodies, first we weep.
We weep because the air is thick as honey.
Even the air is a body. Ours is the bottommost
and newest body, nested inside other, older ones
(though the mother’s body is repairing itself now;
there’s no trace of us anywhere on her;
why are we part of every body but our mother’s?)
Die as soon as possible, the Scriptures say.
And many do—or soon enough, as in the tales of
a swollen boy, now years ago, in farthest Africa,
who filled a grove of cherry trees with tears, then
vanished into the grove. He hides behind trees.
That’s death for you. Grief is a cherry grove.
Don’t be born at all. My friend is on fast-forward now
to reach the scene where they erase her childlessness.
She knows she hid that kid somewhere inside of her,
but where? We know nothing else except by learning:
not walking, not eating. Only to cry comes naturally.