Michael Martone

Close (Parentheses)

(I (am) feel(ing) parenthetical(ly).

I am at the end of things. In this sequestration, I am only a few weeks away from closing out forty years of working as a teacher, a teacher of creative writing. I feel that wispy eyelash-like sweep of punctuation, the close parenthesis ( ) ) closing in, in on me.

I have been thinking again Thomistically. It has come up, over and over again, when I worked with memoirists on their memoirs. Aquinas puzzled over the meaning of death, the meanings death creates. Why is death in God’s equation of life? Why an ending? His answer? Without death life would have no meaning. We need that ending to draw to a close all the stuff that happens in all that living. And from there (on the other side of the closure) we can begin to make sense of what mattered, what was important, what stands out. That is why, I tell (told) the memoirists we draw our own curtain closed (an artificial death) in order to see what this (or that) meant, what was (or was not) important. Cysts of sorts (encapsulations) complete simulations of the lifelong ((Childhood), (My Year Abroad), (An Affair or a Marriage), (the End of a Career)) life with a beginning and end, no longer (long), only middle.

I (am) feel(ing) now that solemn slalom of time descending.

And I am feeling a magnification, one power up as well, another coda, centered on the existential profession of the professor. I was there at the beginning, the transition from writer-in-residence to tenure-track, when this (this) became subject matter. I am feeling now (what with the closures, the transubstantiations of the face-to-face-to face-timing) another seine drawing closed.

And recently scales fell from my eyes. Or more exact(ly) cataracts. Both lenses replaced. Parenthetical (parabolic) lenses. The punctuation of focus, the parentheses. The gesture of the slice, the suction. The concave()convex reflection.

And the lung in this season of holding my breath. By masking, I’m made nervously aware of the parasympathetic innervation. (You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone). I make myself feel that feeling, the ring of the bellows as the parenthetical lobes of the lungs ( ) lunge ( ) from ( ) one ( ) breath ( ) to ( ) the ( ) next.

And HOPE (HOPE). I am (have been) hoping to HOPE. Hoping. Hoping, a buoyant buoyance. Pandora, I (think) (I) remember closed up HOPE in her gilded parentheses, (HOPE), after she loosed the Evils out.

Inside my own parentheses, sequestered, I write postcards. At night, I secret them out into the lonely blue parenthetical boxes around town.

I write: I HOPE this card finds you, HOPE it finds you well and staying safe, HOPE the P.O. is still up and running…

On the way back home (HOME) (breathe in) (breathe out) I (think) (I) remember: Why was (is) HOPE (HOPE) (ever) in that Box of Evils (close, close quarters) in the first place?)

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020