by James R Merrill

I was running downstairs—What was I thinking?!! I wasn’t. I was acting on a whim and a mission—24 hours a day—to pack more living in every hour, staying wide awake as possible; force the issue; push the river; explode the cliche’s; crush the old demon Death…before he crushes you, like a huge stone, rolling downhill, over you …as he surely will do in the end.

As I was saying, I was running, leaping, bounching, bopping, dancing down steps. I was in my college dorm stairwell; in order to skip 3 or 4 at once (save time in space) I jumped toohigh, hitting my skull onthe inve3rse shape of a stair above: cracked like an egg on concrete, a straight edge. I crumpled, out cold, bleeding in a heap…someone found me later. But wat…more context:

I had been slipping off-center, universe tilting, staying up all night, sleeping something like three or four hours a day, 7-10 am—It seemed enough…no need to do reading for class; “takes too long—just listen to the lecture.” I was repeating phraes to myself that betrayed my wavering sense of self-control: “Whose life is it anyway?,” I’d ask myself, cuaght in a dust-devil, a whirlwind or change.

I’d tell myself, and anyone, everyone; who would listen? I surely didn’t feel like my friend anymore. I had returned to college after freshman year and summer at my father’s second marriage pad. I was troubled, in a word. I didn’t want to go to war. It was 1969.