This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully formed emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
Walt Whitman, A Clear Midnight
They lower the white shroud into the earth. You watch them. Your hand grasps a fistful of sand and throws it onto the white marble slab. Half-remembered words from a half-remembered religion form on your lips. You throw another handful and step back; then remember the admonitions of your grandmother – odd numbers and monotheism – and reach for some more to make it an even three.
Farewell, old friend.
“Where are you going?”
“Why? Don’t go. Come back to bed. Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Aw, poor baby. Do you miss him? You must miss him so.”
“Don’t. I don’t know. Don’t let’s not talk about it.”
“Come back to bed. I’ll get your mind off it. Promise.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t. I have to go.”
The roof’s concrete floor is cool beneath your feet. It is dusty. You do not care. In the distance, you see the Friday night lights of a rusty amusement park. You lean against the stone banister and take a swig from the flask. The warmth does much to fortify you against the cold. You watch them until they are switched off. The layers of dust leave a long, white mark on your jeans as you clamber up to the top of the old water tank. You do not care. You lie down and dust off your hands and cross them behind your head. Above you — far, far away — ancient lights from ancient stars twinkle across the inky sky. You watch them. When you were young, your grandmother sung you old Sufi songs. You remember one now:
If the stars in the sky
Should ever burn out
And the nights be left
Cold and distant;
How — pray tell —
Yes, how — do tell —
Should a man discover