Dying / is an art, like everything else. – Sylvia Path


1. When I wake up and take my dog outside, morning glories open, small patches of blue appearing like plus signs on home pregnancy tests. These blooms dangle over my back fence, the section between the yard and alley, where I never mow or weed, where any wayward seed can take root. These tiny blue blooms, like marble or rosary beads, something from my childhood, stare at me each morning, calling out like sirens the advantages of ephemerality.

2. I named my puppy Sylvia, my nod to Plath, that queen of ephemeral, monument to the short and tortured life, a poetic morning glory. Each day I swear that if I ever find a free morning, I will sit on my back porch and watch the entire life span, glories that are born to die. It is an art, you know. A show to which admission is free.

3. I imagine only people who are not parents see these flowers this way. I don’t see something that I should appreciate while it lasts but instead something whose time is more limited than mine. What a strange comfort that brings. But I also see the idea of children in these tiny, blue flowers that burst forth each morning. I see my limitations. I see the burden of the childless.

4. How do we measure a man who will never be a father, who will never contribute a child to the self-similar Sierpinski Gasket of fractal geometry, where a shape is defined and comprised of smaller copies of itself? But what is this desire to make smaller copies of itself in a world of seven billion people? At the same time, as I stare into the face of my own mortality, whose crow’s feet inch ever deeper, I understand the human desire to procreate, to have extensions of ourselves that will live longer than we will, that will put us in the home when we are old.

5. Dying may be an art, but I am not willing to develop my craft. I say that, of course, because that is what you are supposed to say, to ignore the fact that after age twenty five, the mind matures as the body deteriorates. Really, all the world is one long wake, a New Orleans style funeral, a procession down Bourbon Street with mourners and jazz trumpets. The birth canal is just a tornado slide to the grave. We accept this. We enjoy this. But we know what is happening, and we don’t think of it as art.

6. This puppy at three months old knew how to hug. When I picked her up at the pound, all eleven pounds of her, she put a paw on each shoulder and then rest her head, neck on neck. I had to take her home. I am, after all, only human. Like all children, she outgrew such affection, but in that moment, I wanted more than ever a child. I needed a connection with something that was made from me. My self-similar gasket of my fractal geometry. A morning glory without the morning.

7. Last week, a mylar balloon was caught in the power line over the alley. A faded tween’s face was on it, a character from some Disney Channel show I would never have reason to watch, wishing someone a happy birthday. As I stood there that morning, waiting for Sylvia to do her business and making sure she didn’t escape through the holes in the fence, I listened to this balloon squeak in the wind. It made a screeching, crying sound, drowning out crickets and birdsong. The next day, the balloon was gone. Only the ribbon was left.