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Morning Lake / Evening Sea / 27th Birthday

from My Life's Work by Ben Seretan

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Your eyes are closed. Imagine you are sitting happily in a comfortable chair in a neutral space. The room is neither too warm or too cool. It is quiet, but not too quiet. It is bright, but not too bright. White, clean walls. Whatever chair supports your body most fully, whatever size room makes you feel comfortable. In other words, there is nothing for you to notice about the room or how you are sitting in a chair. You simply are, with no worries and easy breaths in and out, in and out. Imagine now an almost imperceptible feeling of warmth on the right side of your neck, just under your chin. The sensation is prickly at first. What I mean is that it is not a constant feeling of warmth - it comes and goes, alternating between warmth and not-warmth, as if this spot on your neck is a tiny AM radio struggling to pick up the weather report. Now imagine that the warmth has become constant - it is strong, but not overpowering. Pleasant. As if that very spot on your neck has slipped under a down comforter. And remember, your eyes are closed. It is now that you realize that this pleasant warmth is in fact a hand, or more specifically, the fingers of a hand gingerly placed upon your neck. And in this warmth that has now become constant you are able to notice the presence of four finger tips, the give of them against your own skin - your own skin is pliant and bent but ever so gently pushing back. You can feel the mechanical quality of the hand, the fact that it is held open, thumb relaxed. If you pay attention closely, you begin to feel the texture of the fingers. The woodgrain of the whorls, every individual peak and valley of the fingerprint, the presence of a fingernail on each finger. And remember, your eyes are closed. You realize that this hand in this calm and neutral room is taking your pulse. Or more accurately this hand is considering your pulse, feeling for it tenderly and curiously, noting it, acknowledging it. At this moment you begin to feel the watch-ticking quality of your own heart, the gentle up-and-down of each pump of blood passing through your jugular vein. You feel the fingers against your neck ever so slightly pinning down the blood, a small act of sadism. But you also feel a sense of relief with each heartbeat - proof that the heart is still beating, still now, and yes still again. And as you become aware of the rhythm of your own heart, you become aware of a second, less present rhythm, echoing and overtaking the thump of your own body. It is with some awe that you realize that this secondary rhythm is the feeling of this hand's own pulse, the pulse that belongs to a person who, at this juncture of your neck, is pushed up against you and touching you. They themselves have this wristwatch rhythm to them (perhaps they're even wearing a wristwatch). Their heart is pumping blood, their lungs are going, there's electricity and memories and unmeasured energies coming off of them. There's heat, and this is the warmth you feel underneath your chin. As you become more and more aware of this person's presence - and remember your eyes are closed - you begin to notice other things: the sound, yes you can almost hear it, of their hair moving and growing, the miniature wind of them exhaling regularly, you realize that - yes - they must be squatting beside you, with one hand balanced on the chair you're sitting in for balance. You feel the weight of their body slightly shifting the chair, causing your body to shift slightly toward them. But they have not said anything to you as of yet, they're just here beside you, considering your heartbeat. And you notice certain fragrances as well - not unpleasant sweat, lightly scented soap and laundry detergent, and what else? Gardenias, rosemary, cedar, ocean spray, sandalwood, palo santo, black pepper, mint, summer grass? And remember, your eyes are closed. Your heart is going. Their heart is going and they're touching you on the neck. The two rhythms of you are dancing around each other, responding to one another and not quite in sync, like two cars waiting at a stoplight with their turn signals blinking left left left. The room is not as neutral now. The warmth has gotten warmer, it's spreading all through you, the whorls of the fingertips feel like they're moving with electric current. And you open your eyes. Who is there beside you?

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from My Life's Work, released August 30, 2018

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Ben Seretan Troy, New York

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