How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood

Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

What if you know you’d be the last to touch someone?

What if you knew you’d be the last 
to touch someone? 
If you were taking tickets, for example, 
at the theater, tearing them, 
giving back the ragged stubs, 
you might take care to touch that palm, 
brush your fingertips 
along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase 
too slowly through the airport, 
when the car in front of me doesn’t signal, 
when the clerk at the pharmacy 
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember 
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt. 
They’d just had lunch and the waiter, 
a young gay man with plum black eyes, 
joked as he served the coffee, 
kissed her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left. 
Then they walked half a block and her aunt 
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume 
have to come? How wide does the crack 
in heaven have to split? 
What would people look like 
if we could see them as they are, 
soaked in honey, stung and swollen, 
reckless, pinned against time?

~ Ellen Bass