The fortune teller knows everyone wants
a forecast of smoothness, a map of flat terrain,
a life rounded as an unblemished egg. Cliché:
The best way to go is in your sleep. Few get that.
What everyone gets is life: peaks, valleys, unexpected
turns, random luck, illness, death. Three murdered
at France’s Notre Dame Basilica, one almost
beheaded, the COVID-19 virus toll spikes,
New Zealand is closing in on legalizing euthanasia.
She did not want to die, the widower writes, but
the choice of life had been taken away. What choice?
To be born? To live? Life had not been taken away,
merely turned: painful, unjust, random. What
had been taken away was comfort, a life of wellness.
Who am I to judge the pain of a dying woman?
Call me indignant, but the deck is not stacked against you
in deciding whether you’ll get a ventilator if infected with the virus.
Doctors’ needles, scalpels, saws were not pointed at you
in pogroms to cure the disabled. That is not your history,
you, who move through this world boundless, who live life able-bodied,
who have not faced others’ pronouncements: you’d be better off dead,
if I were you, I’d just kill myself. Now, some have won
that choice. Fair enough. I offer only a map.
The question: from what vantage point will you view it?
Johnson Cheu‘s poetry and essays have appeared widely over the years, most recently in Rattle and What Rough Beast.
Photograph by Wolfgang Hasselmann.